Resources abound for local businesses shifting to remote work

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Businesses of all sizes across the country have been detrimentally affected by the spread of the coronavirus, but there are resources available.

“If you can imagine, especially for North Carolina natives, a hurricane in every county in the state and multiply that by every county in the United States,” Small Business Administration North Carolina District Director Thomas Stith said during a Tuesday virtual town hall sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker. “That is the response we’re faced with, and while we have systems in place, there will be challenges and we’re working to address those quickly.”

The Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans of up to $2 million to help businesses ride the economic implications of the global pandemic. Officials urged interested business owners to print off the application from www.sba.gov/disaster and gather all necessary information before submitting it online or mailing in applications.

Phase 3 of coronavirus recovery legislation currently working its way through Capitol Hill would provide additional resources, but the extent of the measures won’t be completely known until it is signed by President Donald Trump. Among the measures being considered is forgivable federal assistance to cover payroll costs as well as expanded unemployment benefits. The Wilson Chamber of Commerce has created a resource guide at www.wilsonncchamber.com/covid-19 that includes loan information and additional assistance for businesses.

On Wednesday, Wilson Community College helped local businesses join leaders from across the state in a webinar with various resiliency experts. Asfalis Advisors Chief Resilience Officer Vanessa Mathews noted the importance of company leaders doing an honest assessment of their business and adapting to survive the pandemic.

“Does your company meet the needs of the market?” Mathews said. “I can’t answer that for you, but the reality is businesses all over the world are going to go out of business. But you can pivot and go in a different direction, so I encourage you to see how that looks in your industry.”

She highlighted the implementation of technology to adapt business models. Richard Sharpe, the CEO of Competitive Insights, urged leaders to evaluate current business and prioritize the most profitable customers, products or services.

“How do I manage increased costs to we get through this, and one way is to terminate unprofitable customers,” Sharpe said bluntly. “They are adding costs to your system and draining your profits, so revenue might initially go down, but the profit will go way up, and that is critical as we move through this crisis.”

The global nature of the pandemic has emphasized the need for American companies to take a diversified approach to supply lines rather than focusing on the cheapest option. He urged business leaders to develop contingency plans for all aspects of operations, including supply chains.

“This will end, but I have no idea when, so I’m telling my customers to be prepared for a 90-day disruption, but what is that cost?” Mathews said. “Consider what you should stop doing as a business, what you should start doing and what you should continue to do.”

The Small Business Center at Wilson Community College is promoting another free webinar at 1 p.m. Friday for business leaders interested in learning more about Small Business Administration resources. Visit tinyurl.com/wybt7ex to register by 10 a.m. Friday.