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Small Business Stewardship Lessons Learned #1

Small Business Stewardship Lessons Learned #1

May 10, 2024

This blog is first in a series called Small Business Stewardship Lessons Learned. This series will examine implications of the pandemic for small businesses. Some of the best lessons learned are questions that emerged from the experience. Others are examples of how some business owners  adapted to the unexpected turn of events by parlaying their circumstances into adjustments that enabled them to survive. Others have been able to thrive by flexing their business model. Our goal in this series is to provide business clients with insights and wisdom to ensure the sustainability of their current and future positions in the market.

 In 2020, businesses with less than 500 employees accounted for 48% of American jobs and 43% of GDP, proving themselves an essential part of the U.S. economy.[1] It is now clear from the fallout of the pandemic and subsequent disruptions were cash strapped and without resources to withstand a minor financial shock. In response, the U.S. government established the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) that set aside $349B in loans and assistance for small businesses.[2]

Critical questions arising from these facts include,

  1. How can business owners ensure they’re operating with sufficient reserves to avoid failure?
  2. What steps facilitate financial resilience in times of economic crisis?
  3. How does financial crisis affect small business internal relationships, and with, banks, government and providers?
  4. What strategies help short-term and long-term stability and sustainability?
  5. How can business owners anticipate and navigate negative social and economic impacts?
  6. What should small business owners expect from the government?

                                                                                                                                                 

Prepare NOW (by Contingency Planning):

  • Understand your Stewardship of the business and its implied opportunities
  • Know your business partners; get help to know and track your business numbers
  • Know your employees, their needs, and their value to your business
  • Know your customers: engage them to learn their shifting priorities and interests
  • Know your business vulnerabilities (that may be clearer) since the pandemic
  • Build community supports with like-minded business owners across industries

 

In this first post, we consider the first two questions: Ensuring Reserves and Steps to Facilitate Financial Resilience. However the sequence of how and why you address these questions will be a function of where you stand currently on each of the issues raised. Regardless, success and stability emerges from thoughtful planning and anticipating the foreseeable variables before you. It is worth noting that attention to all the points noted above under Prepare Now are essential.

Mitigating financial damage to your business, whether in smooth or difficult times, demands the foresight of a comprehensive contingency plan. Comprehensive here doesn’t imply the inclusion of everything that could possibly be a problem, but rather a plan that considers all aspects of your business’ sustainability.

Foundational to your approach to Contingency Planning should be a grounded understanding of your role as Steward of the Business. This has broader significance than most people consider, and includes great opportunities to positively affect others’ lives. More about this in the next post.

Ensuring sufficient reserves for financial resilience requires understanding the current financial health of your business. For any plan to adequately address contingencies depends on proactively sustaining your knowledge of where the business now stands. The following documents will help you track your business’ health.

·         Balance Sheet  (assets, liabilities, equity)

·         Risk Mitigation (insurance, business policy) 

·         Income Statement (revenues, income, expenses)

·         Access to Capital Statement 

·         Cash Flow (inflow, outflow, variance)

·         A Careful SWOT[3] Analysis

·         Profit & Loss (business operation efficiency)

·         Clear Business Model

 

Consulting a seasoned, proactive CPA or bookkeeper can help you organize the financial documents noted here (and a method for periodically updating them) as a Dashboard to drive your plans. Keeping them and the other listed documents, derived from your own forward thinking efforts, will set you well on your well to unlocking the next steps to ensure the long-term vitality of your business.  

In the next Strategic Stewardship post, we’ll explore how these dovetail with other aspects of securing your business’ durability. These will ready you to answer the remaining questions in this post. Feel free to contact your Strategic Stewardship advisor for ways to support you in moving with this most important goal forward.  

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Harvard Business Review, April 13, 2020 by A. Bartik, M. Bertrand, Z. Cullen, et. al.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] SWOT analysis identifies your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.