business

Here’s this week’s coronavirus resources for your small business.

Programs & Tools

Relief Plan for Nonprofits, Retailers and other Verticals

Zoho Corporation just launched a comprehensive program—its Vertical Relief Plan (VRP), consisting of a suite of business software applications to help businesses and organizations across three verticals severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis: Education, Nonprofit and  Government, and Retail.

Since Zoho introduced the Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program and Remotely programs earlier this year, data emerged pinpointing the industries that have been disproportionately hurt by the global pandemic. In the U.S retail is among the six sectors most affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. Around the world, an estimated 290 million students are out of school, according to one UNESCO survey. In response, local governments and NGOs have been stretched thin, lacking resources needed to keep people safe and economies going.

In addition to the VRP, Zoho encourages small businesses, as well as finance, sales, marketing, and HR professionals within larger organizations to utilize the discounts, training, and support programs the company is offering.

Here are some of the key features of parts of the Vertical Relief Plan:

Retail

Zoho Commerce 
Retail storefronts, shuttered due to the crisis, can build out an online presence using the Zoho Commerce Starter Plan for free, up to 60 days.

For existing Zoho Commerce customers, the company is raising the transaction fee threshold to $3,000 in sales for the Starter Plan and to $8,000 for the Pro Plan for the next three months to assist with tougher economic conditions.

Businesses providing essential services can quickly set up their online presence by taking advantage of free training and rapid onboarding of Zoho Inventory, Zoho’s order management software, set up specially for them.

Nonprofit & Government

Zoho Creator COVID-19 App Program
The program helps nonprofits, government bodies, and communities that are working on various programs like patient monitoring or food distribution. These organizations can place a request, and Zoho will build web and mobile apps for free using Zoho Creator, a low-code application development platform. Zoho can, for example, create tools to help non-profits or community groups organize shelters or distribute food or other essential services.

Zoho Desk 
For government agencies and departments around the world that are working on COVID-19 relief initiatives, Zoho is currently offering free software licenses of Zoho Desk, the company’s help desk software. Zoho Desk provides teams with the tools to manage their work and communication, and support citizens as well as government agencies in this time of distress.

Zoho Social  
To aid nonprofits and governmental bodies reliant on social media, Zoho Social is opening up its advanced edition for free for six months. It is also honoring extension requests from users as well as providing educational guidance and tool improvements to aid users working remotely.

Zoho Checkout 
For nonprofits working to provide relief during the pandemic, Zoho Checkout is available for free, enabling them to collect online donations easily.

Additional Programs in Support of Change Management

Zoho is also offering additional support across several business categories.

Zoho Survey is now available at a 50% price reduction to allow businesses to swiftly prepare surveys and questionnaires to collect data needed to make smarter, swifter decisions during this time. Plus, Zoho Campaigns now offers crisis templates to assist with outreach and communications.

Zoho has increased the storage limit for businesses using WorkDrive to 1TB of shared storage for the Starter plan and 3TB of shared storage for the Team plan. After 10 users, Zoho will give an additional 100GB of storage for the Starter plan and 300GB for the Team plan for every new user. This increased storage helps businesses currently experiencing higher-than-normal volume, such as NGOs or e-commerce businesses. For businesses developing new lines of revenue, WorkDrive serves as a centralized, scalable, data management and storage platform.

Zoho is offering several development programs through Zoho People, including unexpected change management training, privacy and security training, stress management training, new technology training, onboarding training, communication and collaboration training, and role-change training.

Zoho is rolling out free Zoho Recruit video credits until the end of June 2020. Zoho Recruit has integrated with Zoho Meeting  to make the video interface possible. The application will help recruiters provide timely, positive, virtual candidate experiences for companies that cannot staff fast enough due to the crisis. Zoho Meeting is now free with Zoho Bookings, making virtual appointment scheduling seamless in order to aid the rising demands of a global remote workforce.

Zoho has created numerous additional resources, including a live COVID-19 impact dashboardfinancial planning and recovery advice, a remote working help center, and virtual user groups, to assist businesses during this time. Check out Zoho’s comprehensive list of programs.

 

Digital Resources, Access to Experts and Tools to Support Main Street Businesses

Only 38% of small businesses feel they will survive in the current conditions for 12 months. To help provide small businesses across all industries with the insights and information they need to remain open or get back to business, Mastercard is launching Priceless Conversations: Real Talk, Real Action, an on-going online mentorship program, leveraging Mastercard’s Women Business Advisory Council members, external experts and partners to curate unique small business engagements. The content will be available across Hello Alice, the Mastercard Her Ideas Start Something Priceless Community, as well as the Create & Cultivate and Mastercard digital channels.

This mentorship program will provide the opportunity for Hello Alice’s Business For All community members to engage with the “expert of the week” and receive unique perspectives on their hard-hitting questions on the community’s online forum. You can join the Her Ideas Start Something Priceless Community here.

Resources For Today and Every Day

Mastercard is also expanding its Easy Savings automatic rebate offerings to include new partners such as Squarespace* and EdCast. From allowing small business owners to quickly establish an online presence, to accessing tools that assist with learning, knowledge sharing, remote work and collaboration, these new benefits help business owners manage their day-to-day and focus on their future.

The company will be launching The Main Street Resource Center, an online place for small businesses to access a  curated set of needs-based solutions and resources to help them in the current environment, as well as through recovery. These efforts build on Mastercard’s expanded worldwide commitment to financial inclusion, pledging to bring a total of 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. And given the crucial role that women play in these businesses; we’re pledging to reach 25 million women entrepreneurs.

(*The Squarespace benefit will be available on Premium Easy Savings, which is the Easy Saving version for World Elite cardholders and provides additional offers and capabilities including offers on top of what is available on Easy Savings and savings on experiences and travel.)

 

Free Website Builder

GoDaddy is helping entrepreneurs get online. GoDaddy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes tools to help minimize the economic impact to small businesses. As part of that response, they launched a free website builder with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing. ( The website, plus marketing tools, is free with no expiration. Subject to the GoDaddy Universal Terms of Service, Websites + Marketing Services Agreement and Privacy Policy.)

Small businesses can choose from professionally designed templates, customized for their  industry. And the Websites + Marketing websites include an SSL certificate to protect both the businesses and their customers.

Learn more: Get to Know Websites + Marketing with how-to courses and videos

Stay present with marketing tools

Creating a website is only part of the equation. Being where your customers are also means being active on social media. With the free GoDaddy free website, you can manage your social profiles across Facebook, Google, Yelp and Instagram, post to social media and monitor online reviews from your Websites + Marketing dashboard, which saves you time instead of checking multiple platforms.

Learn more: Using social media to engage with customers in a crisis

Keep your business active

When you’re ready to move from in-person sales to a full blown online store, you can upgrade to the Websites + Marketing Ecommerce plan to take online orders. You won’t lose any of your content or have to start over.

Expert support from GoDaddy Guides

Check out the 24/7 support from their GoDaddy Guides.

 

Free Coronavirus Legal Resource Center Online

Rocket Lawyer recently launched its Coronavirus Legal Center, a free, one-stop resource that provides employers with expert legal advice, business continuity guidance, critical legal documents, and consultations with lawyers in the Rocket Lawyer network to enable them to successfully navigate the myriad challenges arising from the pandemic. The Rocket Lawyer Coronavirus Legal Center is also an essential resource for legal advice in connection with small business loans and aid pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Coronavirus Legal Center offerings for the US, UK, France, and Netherlands are free of charge and currently available to anyone.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the daily lives of millions around the world, business owners’ legal needs are snowballing, at a time when obtaining legal counsel could be harder than ever. Rocket Lawyer’s Coronavirus Legal Center provides legal guidance and resources to alleviate the immense pressure and confusion employers face and helps address their business continuity concerns. With a sharp focus on the top legal questions employers have today, the Coronavirus Legal Center removes the need to wade through a sea of internet search results and can be easily accessed from any device.

The Rocket Lawyer Coronavirus Legal Center provides:

  • A dedicated legal hub with answers to the most pressing legal questions presented by the pandemic, updated frequently.
  • Private, Coronavirus crisis-related, Question & Answer (Q&A) with a knowledgeable Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.
  • Multiple digital legal documents to create, share and sign such as Employee Handbook, Telecommuting (Work from Home) Agreement, Temporary Employment Agreement, Bankruptcy Worksheet, timely business letters and more.
  • Plain language explanations and updates of government benefits, CARES Act relief, small business loans, and stimulus programs.
  • Curated links to additional resources for news, healthcare information and best practices for employers, individuals and families who are dealing with COVID-19 disruptions to their lives and their livelihoods.

Rocket Lawyer will also be hosting a series of webinars and virtual conferences, featuring expert attorneys from its On Call network, in partnership with HR industry leaders like Woodruff Sawyer, HR Girlfriends, and PeopleTechPartners. Topics include employment, healthcare, and business law issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic and the government response as well as estate planning for individuals.

 

PPP Financial Tools

Check out these really helpful tools from Goal Financial:

A live tracker for banks that are lending PPP: https://goalfinancial.com/ppp-bank-status

A tool for getting help with PPP loan forgiveness: https://goalfinancial.com/

 

Handling Customer Payments Remotely

PCI Pal®, a global provider of secure payment solutions, launched a rapid deployment version of its payment services. PCI Pal Rapid Remote delivers PCI compliant payment enabling businesses to quickly continue handling customer payments in a secure and compliant way even when working remotely or from home with minimal notice.

Rapid Remote enables ultra-fast deployment within 48 hours, and provides a solution for businesses with homebased workers who do not have access to secure payment solutions either through their existing remote telephony connectivity (including traditional PBX, and VoIP platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business), or where using mobile phones or landline telephones.

 

Polls & Surveys

What Businesses are Suffering the Most

According to last week’s Alignable Pulse Poll 34% of small businesses nationwide won’t pay their May rent in full. Of those 84% will only be able to pay half the rent or less. While the majority of small businesses have made arrangements with landlords for reduced or delayed payments, 36% can’t get their landlords to budge.

Nearly half the business owners who negotiated with landlords were only able to delay rent one month. Only 22% were successful in deferring rent for three months and a lucky 3% pushed off rent for six months.

The industries most affected by rent struggles include retail, personal services, travel, and restaurants, but this problem cuts across all categories at this point. COVID-19 quarantines have been especially difficult on women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.

The poll shows 52% of women-owned businesses, 48% of minority-owned businesses  and 44% of veteran-owned companies were closed by the third week in April. Compare that to the 38% of all other businesses that shut their doors. On a hopeful note, 98% of all of these businesses plan to reopen once the quarantines have ceased.

 

Who’s Hit the Hardest by the COVOID-19 Pandemic

An unprecedented number of Americans have filed for unemployment. And according to a new research report from Gusto, those who can least afford to be laid off are being hit the hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19. Low-income employees, young workers, and businesses in low-income areas are reeling the most from loss of jobs and wages.

Key findings:

  • Lower income employees are more likely to be laid off. In particular, hourly workers making less than $20 per hour have experienced a 115% higher rate of layoffs compared to those making $30+ per hour.
  • Gen Z and new entrants are seeing the deepest cuts. Workers under the age of 25 have experienced a 93% higher rate of layoffs than workers above the age of 35.
  • Jobs in low-income areas are most at risk. Employees who work in businesses located in lower-income areas are 25% more likely to have been laid off, compared with employees who work in higher-income areas.

Check out the full report is available here.

 

Student Loan Debt During the Coronavirus Crisis

In a survey of American adults currently repaying federal student loan debt, LendEDU found:

  • 68% of all federal student loan borrowers were unsure they could make their federal student loan payments before the CARES Act was implemented. This included 79% of those who have been laid off due to the pandemic and 83% of those who have been furloughed.
  • 54% said they wouldn’t have been able to make their very next federal loan payment, including 61% of those who have lost their jobs.
  • 78% of private student loan borrowers are also not sure they can make payments on their private student loan debt, including 83% of those who have been laid off.
  • 41% will continue to make federal loan payments during the grace period, while 43% will not.
  • Of the 43% that won’t make payments, 34% will spend the money on food & supplies, 20% on a mortgage or rent payment, and 15% will pay other bills (cable, credit card, etc.). 17% said won’t have any extra money to spend despite not making federal loan payments, which is indicative of how tight budgets have gotten, especially for federal student loan borrowers.
  • 14% of respondents said they were contacted by a widely-reported scam that is offering to suspend federal student loan payments for a fee.
  • 27% of respondents said they will consider refinancing their federal student loans during the grace period even though interest on federal loans is frozen at 0% until Sept. 30.
  • 45% of respondents were not aware of the recent federal student loan changes, while 52% were.

 

How Americans Plan to Spend Their Stimulus Payments

More than half of Americans (55%) who plan to spend their stimulus checks on essential and non-essential goods will do so at big-box stores or chains, according to a recent survey by The Ascent, a Motley Fool company.

Most survey respondents say they’ll use their stimulus checks to pay bills (37%) or put the money into savings (26%). Only 22% say they’ll spend most of their stimulus checks to purchase household necessities or non-essentials. Among those people:

  • 14% say they’ll make most purchases at a local small business
  • 30% say they’ll make most purchases online
  • 55% say they’ll make most purchases at a big-box store or chain

 

The Federal Reserve Reports on the Challenges from COVID-19

A new report from the 12 Federal Reserve banks and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shows the scope and scale of challenges that U.S. communities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perspectives from Main Street: The Impact of COVID-19 on Communities and the Entities Serving Them, conducted last month, examines the findings of a nationwide survey of nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, government agencies, and other community organizations.

Key findings:

  • Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents indicated COVID-19 was a significant disruption to the economic conditions of the communities they serve and said they expect recovery to be difficult.
  • Income loss, business impacts, health concerns, and basic consumer needs were the most frequently cited effects of COVID-19.
  • More than a third of respondents say it will take longer than 12 months for their communities to return to the conditions prior to the disruption from COVID-19.
  • 72% of respondents indicated that COVID-19 is significantly disrupting the entity they represent, with 41% expecting to bounce back quickly after recovery begins.
  • 25% of respondents indicated their entity could operate for less than three months in the current environment before exhibiting financial distress.

“Listening to and learning from the front line entities working to support local communities is critical to shaping effective policies and programs. This survey helps amplify their voices as we try to understand the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, businesses, community-based organizations, and others,” says coauthor Karen Leone de Nie, vice president and community affairs officer in the Community and Economic Development group at the Atlanta Fed.

The survey will continue to be conducted about every eight weeks, with findings then updated.

About the Fed’s community development function: The Federal Reserve seeks to promote the economic resilience and mobility of individuals and communities across the United States, including low- and moderate-income and underserved households. Increasing economic opportunity not only benefits individuals and communities but is also vital to the overall economy.

Get Informed—Webinars

Future-Proof Your Small Business with E-Commerce

Today (5/5) at 3 PM ET, join the folks at Alibaba.com, the B2B e-commerce platform, for a virtual “fireside chat” discussing why now is the time for B2B businesses to go digital. The guest Curt Anderson, an e-commerce manufacturing consultant, will share his advice about how to digitize your small business and take it to the next level.

Free registration: Eventbrite

 

Get Informed—Advice

Cybersecurity & COVID-19

Guest post by Paul Lipman, CEO of consumer cybersecurity company BullGuard

Cybercriminals are quick to spring into action and create scams on the back of major news, such as national disasters and terror attacks. Most of the scams in recent weeks have taken advantage of the public’s rightful fear of COVID-19 by pretending to offer helpful information. SMBs are hit especially hard, as 43% of small companies don’t have any cybersecurity defense plan in place, while coronavirus-related scams are on the rise, according to the United States Secret Service.

Some of the most common COVID-19 “fakes” or scams include:

  • Large discounts offered on face masks and hand sanitizer phishing mails. Some even offer cures for COVID-19.
  • Phishing emails and texts offering to provide information on government loans or claiming recipients have been given a tax rebate.
  • Ransomware spreading primarily via emails, often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding COVID-19 from a government agency.
  • Investment scams in which phishing email recipients are offered the opportunity to invest in companies that are producing vaccines.
  • Make a donation pleas to help fight COVID-19 or provide support to victims by clicking a link in an email.
  • Emails that claim to be from the World Health Organization, offering advice on how to stay safe during the pandemic.
  • ‘Healthcare organizations’ informing recipients that they have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Malicious web domains using the word ‘Zoom’. In March Zoom video conferencing users skyrocketed to 200 million. Cybercriminals are trying to exploit this by creating malicious websites to attract Zoom users.

Some of the main details cybercriminals hope to obtain and top targets for these scams include:

  • ID and login credentials that can be used to access corporate networks
  • Password and banking information belonging to individuals and companies
  • Unprotected small businesses and their employees
  • The millions of people working from home
  • Video conferencing platform users, particularly but not exclusively those who use Zoom
  • Companies in the healthcare sector

We don’t anticipate these types of scams surrounding COVID-19 will go away any time soon, as malicious actors will try attempts at fraud for as long as this global health crisis dominates our daily lives. However, this does not mean they can’t be defended against by using anti-malware protection and practicing good cyber-hygiene, such as using Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting to Wi-Fi and using strong, secure passwords and wherever possible, making use of 2FA (two factor authentication).

 

Essential Guide to Video Conferencing From Home

Guest post by Ben Christensen, cofounder and Head of People and Talent at Handshake

1—Start with an agenda: Without this crucial step, it can be more difficult to read the room and know when somebody is preparing to contribute a thought or comment in a meeting when on a video conference call. Preparation and assigned speakers can help drive the flow of a meeting, creating a better experience for everyone.

2—Value establishing a predefined process to ask questions: It’s important to think ahead and take into consideration all components of a meeting. Having a predefined process in place to ask questions (through a chat function or dedicated time at the end of the meeting) will not only ensure that everyone feels included and heard, but also allow for a more productive meeting.

3—Have alternate options to your laptop mic and speakers: Thanks to advanced technology, microphones pick up most sounds around you. As you work from home, there will be a lot of noises that will be hard to limit. Using headphones with a mic will allow for better audio quality will be much better than speaking in an open room.

4—Raise your hand: Use the “Raise Hand” or similar function and then speak to help make a more inclusive conversation, rather than trying to interject or interpret facial cues via video call.

5—Rely on multiple internet connections: Have one backup internet source for your meeting connection just in case. For example, if you normally use internet/device audio, make sure you also can and know how to dial in. There’s nothing worse than losing a connection at a pivotal point in a meeting.

 

Effectively Managing a Remote Project Team

Guest post by Scott Bales, VP of Delivery and Solution Engineering at Replicon

In today’s age of globalization and technical advancement, many businesses have seen considerable success allowing employees the option to work remotely—but what happens when it’s no longer an option? With the rise of COVID-19 forcing entire teams to continue their work remotely, many project leads and employees alike are entering new territory.

For businesses looking at total telecommunication until further notice, here are some key tips from, on how to effectively manage a remote project team:

  • Set Expectations Early and Often. Providing guidelines, setting boundaries, and reviewing the basics are among the most important steps to take when setting out on your project. There will be questions—be accessible and provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals, and more. Outline each team member’s availability and ensure you can reach them when needed.
  • Ensure Everyone Has the Tools They Need. From a comfy desk chair to a unified system of metrics, everyone should be equipped with whatever tools they need to succeed and communicate effectively.
  • Stay Aligned With Client Requirements. Just like your team, stakeholders and clients should also receive transparent and open communication. Their requirements define your work, and as a project based organization, your goal is to understand what their priorities are and what that translates into for you.
  • Don’t Be a Stranger. At the outset, you may find it makes more sense to over-communicate with team members rather than risk missing critical information. As your team enters a more comfortable cadence, you can adjust updates, video calls, and more.
  • Build Genuine Connections. We’re all in this together and humanizing the work experience is more important than ever as many workers may feel isolated and disoriented with these new processes. Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or try and “grab coffee” together—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality, solidarity and reminds everyone they’re not an island working alone.

Coronavirus stock photo by MintArt/Shutterstock