Coronavirus Business Update



Micro-Grants for Women of Color Small Business Owners

Women on the Rise NY, Inc. dba HerSuiteSpot in partnership with the Yva Jourdan Foundation, Inc. have provided micro-grants to women of color entrepreneurs since 2017 as a way to assist them in starting or growing a business.

Now they’re helping the HerSuiteSpot community with a micro-grant fund called HerRise Micro-Grant. HerRise Micro-Grants will award 20 cash grants at $500 each to qualifying women of color owned small businesses experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19 in a three round micro-grant giving event.

Applications are open through August 31, 2020. See the website for a full list of eligibility criteria and more details on the application process.

The 7th Annual Women on the Rise Forum & Expo is now going virtual and is scheduled for 10/10/20.

The Yva Jourdan Foundation is seeking to raise funds for the micro-grants totaling $50,000. For donations and sponsorship please contact Marsha Guerrier.


Tools & Resources

Check out the Small Business Booster Kit from AdRoll. It’s full of free tools, resources and content.


Reports, Polls & Surveys

BizBuySell Insight Report

Small business transactions dropped 39% in the 2nd quarter of 2020 according to BizBuySell’s Insight Reportthe largest year-over-year decline since the Great Recession, when transactions dropped 50% in the 2nd quarter of 2009.

According to the Report, “The second quarter of 2020 began with government mandated shutdowns postponing deals as owners focused on maintaining operations while buyers waited for the dust to settle. Lack of clarity over which businesses were ‘essential’ versus which were required to close and for how long made for an especially challenging market.”

During the first week of July, BizBuySell surveyed thousands of small business owners and buyers to learn how the pandemic had impacted their business or buying decisions. According to the survey, 20% of business owners closed their doors as a result of the pandemic and another 32% suspended partial operations.

Fearing the worst, many buyers paused their search. Others who wanted to move forward couldn’t because lenders froze loan approvals. BizBuySell says, “This dynamic combined with dried up cash flow for impacted businesses complicated short-term exit plans and resulted in some owners pulling their businesses off the market.”

Jay Offerdahl, President of Charlotte based Viking Mergers & Acquisitions, described the situation as a “giant pause”, with fear of the unknown paralyzing all parties. “Buyers and lenders didn’t want to close, while sellers would panic at any hesitancy and immediately want to find another buyer,” says Offerdahl.

By July 71% of the surveyed owners who were forced to close have resumed operations. BizBuySell says, “Entrepreneurs are pivoting, adapting, and seeking opportunity amidst the disruption brought on by the pandemic, and as a result, acquisitions are steadily bouncing back from April lows.”

After a 51% year-over-year decrease in April transactions, consecutive 12-point gains in May and June shrank the deficit to 39% and 27% respectively. Over the same period, the number of buyers searching and inquiring about businesses on BizBuySell recovered then eclipsed pre-pandemic levels.

“The panic changed toward the end of May. At that point, we understood what we were dealing with, and the appropriate way to view financials in light of it,” says Offerdahl. “Demand recovered, listings started to return, and deals were happening again.”

There’s a ton of great info in this report. You can read the whole report here.


For Many Businesses Normalcy is a Ways Off

More than half of business leaders (53%) expect their companies to return to normal in the next 12 months, according to JPMorgan Chase’s Business Leaders Outlook Pulse Survey. They remain hopeful even though most (83%) are running at a reduced capacity, 68% are confident their businesses will thrive and only 2% are concerned their businesses may not survive.

Looking ahead to the next six months, 56% are optimistic about their companies, but confidence dwindles on broader levels. They’re optimistic about their local economies (33%) and the national economy (35%). But their confidence in the global economy is considerably lower at 17%.

According to the survey, as a result of this year’s disruptions, these are the top five actions business leaders are taking:

  • Conserving capital for unforeseen needs:87% of business leaders have already built up their cash reserves or plan to do so in the next three months. Not surprisingly, 71% have either reduced their spending on capital expenditures or are planning to do so.
  • Learning from the crisis:With continued uncertainty around economic conditions and a potential second wave of COVID-19, 82% have already prepared or are planning to prepare for a similar event in the future.
  • Managing business finances digitally:59% have either already increased or plan to increase their use of digital banking and treasury management tools to manage cash flow, send and receive payments, and streamline operations.
  • Implementing permanent changes to operating models:As a result of turning to remote working solutions, 56% have already made permanent changes to their operating models or plan to do so in the next three months.
  • Shifting the business online:54% have also shifted more of their operating models to be online or plan to do so, as a result of pandemic-related closures and shifting consumer habits.

While many business leaders are cautiously optimistic about the future, they’re faced with the realities of an unpredictable operating environment. Their top three challenges are:

  • Uncertain economic conditions:70% of business leasers cited economic uncertainty—both domestically and globally—as the leading challenge facing their business operations.
  • Revenue and sales growth:59% of business leaders are concerned about growing sales, though with certain industries seeing an uptick in demand, 47% reported that they’re expecting an increase in revenue and sales within the next six months.
  • Shifting consumer habits due to COVID-19:The pandemic saw more consumers turning to e-commerce technology for purchasing, in addition to spending more conservatively overall. Changing consumer habits is a leading concern for 33% of business leaders.

Businesses should keep the following top-of-mind when navigating the rest of 2020:

  • Harness the power of workplace technology.COVID-19 has accelerated the evolution of remote working, and now is the time for businesses to implement digital tools to enhance productivity. Learn more here.
  • Enhance digital security protocols.Business email compromise (BEC) is among the most serious threats that face businesses—particularly in times of crisis. Learn how to prevent BEC and other types of fraud here.
  • Proactively prepare for future disruption.Recent events have reinforced that businesses across industries and of all sizes should have solid business resiliency plans in place before crises happen. Learn more here.

Read more about the 2020 Business Leaders Outlook Pulse Survey.


State of Small Business

Alignable’s State of Small Business Report for July was released earlier this month.

Here are a few highlights:
National Fear Of Re-Closing Up 41%:  The fear of needing to re-close again due to outbreaks has skyrocketed to 41%, up from 17% in May to 24% in late June. And while that fear is higher in FL & TX, those small business owners are even more worried about customers being too afraid to return.

Impending July Cash Crunch: Though fears about re-closing and apprehensive customers are pervasive, the No. 1 worry among SMBs is running out of cash.

  • 43% of PPP loan recipients say they’re almost out of money.
  • Worse yet, a whopping 69% of small businesses that never got federal funding say their cash reserves could be gone by July’s end.
  • For many minorities, those numbers are even higher.

Hiring’s Up, But Revenues Grow More Slowly

  • 77% of small business staffers are back on the payroll (up 19% from May). That’s a great sign.
  • But 49% of the owners say they have less than half of the revenue they had prior to the pandemic.

Those are just a few insights shared in the July report. Read the rest here.


Top 50 Cities Seeing the Most E-Commerce Adoption

Square recently released the Rise of eCommerce report, exploring how sellers in cities large and small embraced e-commerce in an effort to continue serving their customers in recent months. The report lists the top 50 cities that saw the largest percentage increase in new ecommerce sellers, includes insights from businesses on the front lines of this transition, and shares predictions about the road ahead from Square’s head of eCommerce, David Rusenko. The key takeaway—e-commerce is here to stay.

To see which cities made the list (the #1 city surprised me), and learn more about how online selling is helping sellers of all sizes adapt to  COVID-19, click here.


Impact of PPP

Gusto released an initial impact of PPP on small business in America (the analyzes hiring trends through mid-June).

Key Report Findings from Gusto’s PPP Report:

  • Hiring rates are ramping up: Hiring and rehiring rates in late April through early June were nearly twice as high for companies that reported receiving PPP loans compared to those that did not (34.2% versus 18.4% hired at least one employee during this period).
  • Bridging the gap: Federal loan programs helped small businesses with their April and May hiring efforts, but not enough to make up for the deep job cuts they made in March. Businesses that reported receiving a PPP loan were more than twice as likely (+139%) to rehire at least one employee from the last week of April through mid-May than businesses that did not. However, these companies were also still 65% more likely to terminate at least one employee during that same period.
  • The first cut is the deepest: Businesses that received PPP loans were those that made the deepest job cuts before the CARES Act passed in late March ‘20. Despite higher rehiring rates for employees that were terminated between the onset of the COVID crisis and the beginning of PPP loan payouts, the percentage of employees that were out of work is still higher for PPP-receiving companies (86.9% of employees were still employed as of mid-May versus 89.6% for companies that did not report receiving a PPP loan).

Summary of Report: In their analysis of the report Gusto says that PPP aid has helped to provide stabilization from the initial free fall in March, with strong increases in hiring and rehiring beginning in the second half of April.

But the report also shows PPP aid has not yet been enough to create a return to pre-COVID-19 employment levels. New legislation passed by Congress extends the timeline and eases restrictions on how funds are used, which may help to speed up initial recovery efforts.

Even with these changes, small businesses remain in a race against the clock to set up shop, rehire employees, and take care of fixed costs beyond payroll. And they still must navigate varying timelines for full reopening. In addition, most of the businesses that received PPP funding will have spent their PPP funds within the next few weeks while many of these businesses are still only able to partially operate.

Other recent Gusto data of interest:

  • Wages are being cut at a high rate. According to specific data they shared with the Washington Post, (see this article on wage cuts): “Pay and hours have been cut in nearly every sector, according to payroll processor Gusto, but white-collar industries such as finance, tech and law have seen things turn south most rapidly….Both small and large companies have been cutting pay. In data shared with The Post, Gusto found almost a third of small businesses had cut some workers’ pay or hours by at least 10 percent in May. That includes 9.5 percent that reduced pay for at least one employee, and 22 percent that cut hours.”


Effects of Lockdown surveyed small businesses about how they’ve managed during the lockdown. As the initially started to ease they were interested in investigating the challenges small businesses have faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • 80% of small business owners said Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their business, yet 55% are feeling very positive for the future
  • 100% of respondents have been using lockdown to build their businesses, with the majority focusing on marketing, connecting with customers, and upskilling.
  • 76% have upskilled during the lockdown—with SEO, social media, learning a new language, and data analytics as the most common new skills to learn.

The businesses surveyed were from a mixture of industries, but the most common sectors were B2B services (28%), beauty, health & wellbeing (18%), retail (18%), software/ tech (7%), and travel (5%).

Challenges faced

The most common challenges to businesses were fewer sales (54%), followed by having to reschedule product launches and events (54%), struggling to pay staff and business costs (18%), and affecting investment opportunities (18%).

Business activities

All respondents surveyed say they had used their time under lockdown productively to grow their business.

Most have focused on what they can offer online, and building up their digital marketing strategies, with creating new content (88%) and online offers (60%), holding or attending online events (60%), connecting with customers (57%), and upskilling (55%) as the most common things to do over lockdown.

Some had positive outcomes as a result of COVID-19, including an increase in online sales, having more time to focus on marketing, growth in their mailing list, learning new things, new product launches, and getting to know their customers better.

The most common new skills for people to develop were learning SEO (25%), social media (13%), learning a new language (3.2%), data skills (3.2%), and PR (3.2%).

Using technology 

Technology has played a crucial role in business success over this time. Zoom, WhatsApp, and email were the most common ways to communicate with staff, and social media marketing, email marketing, web conferencing, and having an online website or store were the most beneficial forms of technology. The majority have used lockdown to update their website, with 60% tweaking their current site and 25% building a new one.

For advice from some business owners, see Advice section below.


Financial Consequences for Businesses Suffering COVID-19 Related Data Breaches 

Since the onset of COVID-19, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the IC3, reported a significant uptick in cybercrime targeted at individuals, businesses and government agencies. To better understand consumer sentiment around data security amid the pandemic, PCI Pal®, the global provider of secure payment solutions, recently conducted a survey of North American consumers. The research found that a staggering 64% of Americans and 68% of Canadians would avoid buying from a company that had suffered a COVID-19 related data breach for up to several years. Another 17% of Americans and 24% of Canadians said they would never return to the business.

“Cybercriminals are shamelessly opportunistic and growing alarmingly sophisticated. Capitalizing on the remote working situation and growing consumer fears around the pandemic, hackers are working around the clock to steal data for profit. With North American consumers rightfully holding businesses accountable for lax data security practices, businesses must meet the highest compliance and security standards if they want to build and maintain customer loyalty,” says Geoff Forsyth, Chief Information Security Officer, PCI Pal.

Surprisingly, only 38% of Americans and 40% of Canadians expressed more concern about companies handling their personal data securely since COVID-19. And 57% of Americans and 56% of Canadians report having the same level of concern around data security as they did before the pandemic hit. With the Identity Theft Resource Center reporting a 17% spike in data breaches in 2019 from 2018, these figures suggest that North American consumers are experiencing data breach fatigue.

When it comes to shopping with businesses operating remotely as a result of COVID-19, 76% of Americans and 83% of Canadians expressed concerns around sharing payment details or conducting financial transactions. As COVID-19 related scams proliferate, these figures suggest that businesses must be vigilant in protecting consumer data, in particular, bank account details and credit card numbers—further evidenced by data from Experian which found that 31% of data breach victims have their identity stolen.

“As organizations continue to adapt to the changing business and threat landscape, it’ll be crucial to prioritize data security,” says Forsyth. “This will include adjusting business models to meet the highest standards of security and compliance across all customer engagement channels.”


Are You Future Ready?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on companies globally, today’s leading businesses (of all sizes) are adaptable and people and purpose focused, according to a major new study from Vodafone Business. The Future Ready Report identifies the attributes of the most resilient ‘future ready’ organizations and their responses to common business challenges before, during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

For example, while nearly half of all businesses studied report profits are down now compared to last year, 30% of “future ready” businesses report an increase.

“Future ready” businesses (FRBs) can be identified by six unifying characteristics, including adaptability, an openness to technology, and clear transformation goals. The report also found:

  • Employees have taken center stage, particularly for FRBs:
    • 44% of all businesses now prioritize employee wellness and mental health, up 10 percentage points since before Covid-19, but for FRBs this is 77%.
    • 90% of FRBs reported supporting their employees further during the pandemic.
  • Societal attitudes and consumer expectations have changed, and businesses have moved to focus on ethical behaviors or to find a purpose beyond their core offering:
    • During COVID-19, 81% of organizations reported taking some form of action to support those outside their business, compared to 94% of FRBs.

As businesses continue to adapt to new challenges, Vodafone Business also recently launched V-Hub, a resource service for SMEs looking to digitalize, to support small and medium businesses as they rebuild. The service offers SMEs access to articles, guides and live help covering topics such as website construction, cyber security, remote working and digital marketing.

You can read the full report here.


Consumers Upbeat About Travel Post COVID-19

Flywire recently released new research showing very strong consumer demand for travel post coronavirus crisis. The interactive report, Bouncing Back: Consumer Views on Traveling Againis based on an independent survey of adult leisure travelers from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan. The research looks at the impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumer travel plans and their expectations of travel providers to encourage more travel.

Few industries have been hurt by the coronavirus crisis as much as travel. Worldwide GDP loss could be as much as $2.7 trillion in 2020 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Direct travel spending in the U.S. alone is expected to decline by $519 billion.

Despite a bleak financial outlook, travelers are optimistic about the industry, according to Flywire’s new survey. This suggests a resurgence of the industry when travel options return; 93% of respondents are confident the industry will still be here after the pandemic is over and 69% plan to travel again when it does. For 74%, just thinking of traveling again while they are self-isolating is keeping them going.

Additional findings from the report include:

Consumers are ready to spend on travel again. Over half of the travelers surveyed say they will spend the same on travel for the remainder of this year/next year as they did last year, while one in five will increase their budget. 55% plan to stay in their own country for their first trips. The types of vacations planned include the beach (38%), visiting family and friends (36%) and city vacations (23%).

Adventure travelers are looking for more adventure. Of those consumers who have traveled for adventure in the past 12 months, nearly half say their first trip will be another adventure experience. Specific preferences vary widely—from exotic (13%), camping (13%), hiking (11%) and general adventure (7%) to skiing (4%), safari (3%) and biking (1%).

The payment experience matters to consumers. 88% of those surveyed say ease of payment is important to their overall travel experience with almost half (48%) saying it is very important. 66% said that the payment experience impacts their choice of travel agent or tour operator. This suggests that ensuring a seamless payment experience can directly impact revenue for travel agents and operators as they try to bounce back.

Travel correlates closely to well-being. 73% of travelers across all countries had a negative feeling as a result of not being able to travel, and 70% say not traveling means they are not able to make new and/or special memories. Being stuck at home is taking an emotional toll. Over one-third (35%) of consumers surveyed say not traveling now makes them feel sad and/or depressed while one-quarter said it makes them feel isolated and/or anxious.

On the positive side, over four in five (82%) say traveling is a way to calm their soul and 72% say the opportunity to travel again gives them something to look forward to.

Consumers are pleased with the travel industry’s response, but they also expect more.
Overall, consumers feel the industry has responded well with 77% saying the industry is doing a great job considering the circumstances. On the flip side, 88% of those surveyed say the travel industry needs to be more flexible in dealing with changes and cancellations. Hotels received the highest grades for their response while cruises and airlines were viewed as the least responsive.


How Tech Leaders are Handling Leadership and Influence

Americans are now spending an additional 30% of their day online, according to a study from Search Engine Land, (up from 25% of their day in 2019, per Pew) and CEOs need to adapt to reach them,.

Sutherlandgold tracked 10 influential CEOs from Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list to see how they went about raising their visibility and engaging their digital audiences (both before and after the pandemic).

Here are 5 major insights:

  • Event cancelations hit CEOs hard: They found 7 of the 10 leaders shared their thought leadership primarily by speaking at events. Once the pandemic hit, 50% of the CEOs tracked embraced virtual events but did not significantly increase the visibility of their original thinking via byline articles, blog posts, videos, or podcasts.
  • Twitter was immediately leveraged: As soon as the pandemic was announced, 70% of the 10 high growth CEOs with Twitter accounts increased both their follower count and added to their total number of tweets. Having an active social media presence is an invaluable advantage in times of crisis. Leaders who transparently and consistently communicate the state of their business are able to build trust, loyalty, and visibility for their employees and brand.
  • Yet LinkedIn was forgotten: Surprisingly, only 2 out of the 10 CEOs tracked contributed articles or engaged audiences via LinkedIn. This is an open opportunity, as LinkedIn is the #1 professional network for B2B companies, and approximately 80% of the 100+ CEOs surveyed preferred LinkedIn for engagement and reaching investors.
  • Social media? CEOs do it themselves: Engagement on social media is mission-critical to CEOs at startup companies. More than 80% of CEOs from their online survey say they manage their own social media presence, while 18% say an employee or outside agency manages their social media engagement.


Get informed—Read it!

Will Americans Sue Small Businesses if Exposed to COVID-19?

A Yahoo-Finance Harris poll from Yahoo Finance shows less than a third of Americans say they would sue a business if they were exposed to COVID-19 while visiting the establishment, according to a new Yahoo Finance-Harris poll.

Almost one-third (30%) of those surveyed earlier this month say they would be likely to sue the business—18% say they’d be “somewhat likely” and 12% of people say they would be “very likely” to file a lawsuit. And 70% of respondents said they would not be likely to sue.

Americans are a little more likely to sue their employers: 34% of respondents say they would be likely to sue their employer if they were exposed to COVID-19 at work.

Read the report.


Battle Over Vacation Time

The Wall Street Journal covered the current battle between employers who want their employees to take their vacation time and workers who don’t want to take the time since they can’t really go anywhere.

Zenefits vacation data used in the report—it showed requests from 3,000 companies for vacation in April and May were significantly down compared to the same period last year—63,000, compared to 120,000 in 2019.


The Future of Sales and AI

A few stats from the Selling Forward: The Future of Sales & Marketing Research Report  were interesting:

  • 84% of respondents feel that teams are as productive or even more productive when selling remotely as they were in the office
  • 22% report there will “never be a complete return to in-office working”
  • More than 75% feel optimistic about their economic outlook in the future
  • 70% expect a rebound in 2020 or have not taken any hit to their revenue

Read the report from ringDNA.


What Gen Z Expects from Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic

There are a lot of reports worth reading from The Ambassadors Company, including one about what Gen Z wants from businesses in the age of COVID-19.


Get informed—Advice

Hotel Industry Releases Top 5 Requirements to Travel Safely

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) today released the “Safe Stay Guest Checklist” for guests on how to travel safely while also creating a standardized safety experience nationwide. This checklist is part of AHLA’s Safe Stay guidelines, an industry-wide, enhanced set of health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees.

The Safe Stay Guest Checklist includes:

  • Require face coverings in all indoor public spaces and practice social distancing in all common areas.
  • Choose contactless options, where available, including online reservations, check-ins, and payments.
  • Consider daily room cleaning, only if necessary. Ask the hotel about your options.
  • Request contactless room service delivery.
  • Refrain from traveling if you have, or recently had, any symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

To further expand the hotel industry’s Safe Stay initiative, AHLA also recently launched COVID-19 Precautions for Hotels, an online course developed in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute(AHLEI) to help hotels train their staffs on the enhanced safety and cleanliness guidelines.


Advice for Small Businesses

In the report mentioned above, many small business owners offered advice to other entrepreneurs. Check it out below:

Pivot and prioritize: Prioritizing what you are good at and knowing what works was mentioned by several respondents:

Joseph Hagen, Streamline PR: “Use this time to sharpen what you are already good at”.

Dennis Vu, Ringblaze: “Focus on your strengths, don’t experiment too much. Do more of what works for you in terms of customer acquisition and focus on that. For us, that has been email marketing and we’ve doubled down on it.”

Sara Price, Coaching Service Actually: “Get the balance right between cutting costs and investing in the future. See this as an opportunity to engage, build trust and loyalty.”

Test new things & be agile: Others says now is the best time to be agile, and develop and test new things on your audience, particularly in a time of uncertainty.

Lottie Boreham, BOOST&Co: “Agility is key, things are moving so quickly all the time that you need to keep an eye on the news and trends and respond fast.”

Michaela Thomas, The Thomas Connection: “Take a step back and strategize, to use your time wisely. Test out new offers on your existing customer base, tweak them, and then do an imperfect first round.”

Kim Allcott, Allcott Associates LLP: “Look for opportunities that are unique to the situation. We’re making the most of the lockdown period by providing free building advice from the company partners”

Reach out and get to know your customers. The importance of knowing and understanding your customers and their needs cropped up a lot in the advice given by businesses. Use the  lockdown to really focus on building customer retention strategies.

Kim-Adele Platts, Executive Coaching: “It might seem counterintuitive but really lock down your niche, define your absolute ideal customer the one you are perfect for. Think about them and their current challenge. If you were in their shoes what would you be looking for right now? Then make sure your product or service clearly talks to that solution. We make the mistake of talking about us when we need to be talking about and to our customers.”

Jon Davis, Medius: “From a B2B perspective, I think it’s important to maintain contact with your customers and let them understand that you’re there to help and support them through this challenging period. So whether that’s producing helpful content to navigate the crisis, or reassuring clients services are at their disposal to help cope, it’s important to open dialogue early and to continue talking to your client.”

Calypso Rose, Indytute: “Talk and make connections with your customers. Find out what they want you to do to help their situation. Use this time to create content that is good for now and for the future as this period of time won’t be forever.”

Focus on Marketing. In times of economic downturns, companies often have to make cuts. Often, it’s the marketing and advertising budget that is cut. However, many respondents pointed to the continued importance of getting your marketing right.

Julia Ferrari, web designer: “People are more open than ever to have online conversations, use their social media, and connect with new people. Developing a good and effective website is more important than ever.”

Joe Binder, WOAW branding agency: “Step back from trying to grow right now and think ‘what conversations can I start now that could mature into a potential client-conversation in 8-10 months’ time?’. Lockdown is a great opportunity to work on long- term marketing projects.”

Chris Abrams, Abrams Insurance Solutions: “A good website is key. Make it your personal brand. Showcase testimonials from clients to build trust and show you know what you are doing. Use technology (video conference and screen-shares) to interact and present to clients. Strangers are getting more comfortable with doing business online. Show your face and provide solutions to their problems. If you don’t have expertise or need help in a certain area, find a virtual assistant. We use assistants to help with blog writing, creating graphics, and CRM management.”

Business woman photo by pixelheadphoto digitalskillet/Shutterstock