The savvy small business’ guide to succeeding during coronavirus

By Steve Strauss, USA TODAY Senior Small Business Columnist and Voya Contributor


You may remember the legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. With his signature signoff, “Good Day!” and his tales of little known, come from behind victories he called “The rest of the story,” Harvey was both an inspiration and an institution.

Paul Harvey once said something that is important for us small business people to remember, especially during this unsettling coronavirus era:

“In times like these, it is important to remember . . . that there have always been times like these.”

Now of course, this pandemic is a once in a hundred year event. But, that said, it is also true that, even recently, we have lived through sudden downturns (2008, anyone?) and unexpected events upending the economy (9/11.) So yes, in a sense, there have indeed always been times like these, just different.

The good news is that lessons have been learned along the way with regard to how to, not just survive, but prosper, during these economic earthquakes.

I know, because I have seen them first-hand.

Although I am an attorney, I don’t practice anymore (I came to my senses long ago, thank you very much.) Rather, for the past 20 years, I have been the lead small business columnist for USA TODAY and an author of 17 books, like The Small Business Bible. I speak and work with small business owners and managers every day and what I know is that we are hard-wired to be an optimistic, resilient, hard-working bunch.

I also know that one thing the best small businesses have in common is that they are made up of committed people who make a great team; that is, between the ownership, management, employees, and advisors, the best businesses thrive because the people involved are devoted, visionary, and strive to bring out the best in everyone.

That is why I am particularly proud of getting to team up with Voya. Voya is the type of teammate I am referring to – a leader in their field who is committed to helping their teammates – you and your business – succeed.

To wit: Over the next few weeks, I will be posting blogs and presenting webinars that we think will really help you better navigate this disturbing economic moment. We will be discussing many strategies that you will be able to use to (if you will indulge me and let me beat the sports metaphor just one last time!) keep the ball moving forward.

Essentially, the ideas we will be looking at can be broken into two categories:

  1. What to do right now, and
  2. What to do moving forward

Let’s drill down into these a bit more:

What to do right now

Mind your financials and look to reduce overhead

Yes, of course, the professionals at Voya can help with the money part, and you should be sure to tap their knowledge and experience.

But even beyond that, now is a good time to speak with your vendors and see whether they are willing to help or otherwise able to re-negotiate your deals. Good customers are hard to find right now and that gives you leverage. You might be surprised at just how amenable they might be to giving you a break.

Look to local and state agencies for assistance

Yes, we have all heard a lot about the troubled federal PPP program. You may have even applied for a PPP loan. But the important thing to note here is that, while the feds are trying to help, the savvy small business will also look to city, regional and state governments. In many locales, these entities are easier to work with and quicker to respond.

Manage your remote team

With employees hither and yon, you now have to learn how to be a “digital leader.” As you have undoubtedly noticed, leading a remote team is not nearly the same as leading an in-person team. We will be having a future blog article devoted exclusively to this topic.

Tap technology

Yes, you are already pivoting to remote work, but beyond that, it would behoove you to take the time to really search and learn about what sort of digital tools are out there, because there are many.

Indeed, one thing I have learned and have been impressed by in the past 20 is just how committed large tech companies are to the success of small businesses, and just how many extraordinary tools they create to make our business lives easier, better. Check them out.

What to do moving forward

Use this time wisely

If you now have extra time, use it. Look at new marketing ideas you may be able to learn and perfect now, and roll out in six months. Learn or teach your team some new tricks that will be of use later.

As Rahm Emanuel famously said, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.”

Get ready to re-open

Even if your state is “opening up soon,” it does not necessarily follow that your employees, or your customers, are going to be comfortable or ready to head back into the store or office.

As such, you will need to make the safety of your staff and customers your #1 priority moving forward. This will mean creating new policies, implementing cleanliness procedures, procuring the right supplies, and much more.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. We are here to help and that is what this content series is aiming to do.

If we do our job right, yours just got easier.




Steve Strauss

Often called “America’s most popular small business columnist,” Steve Strauss is a best-selling author and senior USA TODAY columnist whose content and media appearances reach millions. Steve is also an attorney, small business influencer, and the author of 17 books, including The Small Business Bible.

Steve Strauss and USA Today are not affiliated with the Voya® family of companies.

This material is provided by Voya for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax, or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk. Please consult an independent tax, legal, or financial professional for specific advice about your individual situation.


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