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Guest Post by Ty Kiisel If you're like many people, right now you're thinking about what you really want out of your life and career. Maybe you lost your job because of COVID-19 or simply realize it isn't what you want to do long-term. Maybe you're dreaming about a business you'd love to start. Starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic and national recession might seem foolhardy on the surface, but in reality, it might be your best opportunity to realize your dreams of entrepreneurship. Why? First of all, people are being cautious, which means they aren’t taking the kinds of risks that lead to financial success right now. That leaves an opportunity for you. Also, if you can create a thriving business in the middle of global upheaval, it’s going to be even easier to succeed when times are good. Still, this isn’t going to be an easy endeavor. Here are some tips to help you succeed: 1. Start small This might not be the time to execute your full dream of opening a chain of retail stores, given the economic climate and the fact that some states are still shutting down certain types of businesses to combat the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on a smaller scale. If you want to open a retail business, maybe you start selling online first. Online sales have, after all, increased 55 percent year over year, and experts don’t expect them to stall out too much as brick and mortar stores open back up. If you’re still working, you could start a business that you can run, at least initially, part-time while you continue to bring home a steady paycheck. You can create a plan to scale that allows you to start with a lower budget for equipment, marketing, staff, etc., that you can grow once you start bringing in revenue. 2. Look for unique opportunities Before you jump into launching a new business, look around to see what’s happening in that industry. The global pandemic has forever changed many types of businesses. Take restaurants, for example. Many have struggled with fluctuating rules about dine-in services in many states. Does that mean you shouldn’t open a restaurant? Not necessarily. The key is seeing where the opportunities lie. If you’re interested in opening a restaurant, it might do best as a take-out and delivery option only. You’d also cut down on your restaurant footprint and cost for commercial real estate if you don’t have a dine-in option. Where else are there opportunities right now? The world of virtual offices, communications, and healthcare are all areas that are rapidly changing and presenting a wealth of business opportunities you can capitalize on. 3. Buy used equipment You may like the idea of buying a $1,000 Herman Miller office chair for your new enterprise or upgrading your old laptop for something sleek and faster, but ask yourself: Is it really necessary? The first months of your new business will bleed money, so any unnecessary expense should be tabled until you’re profitable. One way to do that is to buy used equipment on sites like Craigslist, NextDoor, or Facebook. And now’s a great time to find deals because, unfortunately, so many businesses are closing up shop. Their misfortune could be your cost-saving grace. 4. Think about financing ASAP Even if you plan to bootstrap your business, it’s still a good idea to consider what financing you could qualify for down the road if you want to, for example, hire employees, rent office space, or buy more inventory. If you’ve got great personal and business credit, you may qualify for a low-interest SBA or bank loan. If not, you’ll have to look at alternative financing options like merchant cash advances. Better yet, look for ways to build your business credit and improve your personal credit. It won’t happen overnight, but if you start working on it now, you’ll be in a better position for a loan down the road. Being aware of all financing tools available to you before you need them, as well as what each requires to qualify, can help you position your company from the start to be appealing to lenders. You can build your business credit by opening a business credit card or tradeline with a vendor and meeting all your financial obligations on time — that’s the single biggest thing you can do to build a strong business credit profile. Whether you think you need financing right now or not, it may be a good time to apply for a line of credit so that you can lock in low-interest rates and have access to cash when you need it later. 5. Consider your actual staffing needs You may dream of commanding an entire office of employees, but the reality is that you may not be able to afford to hire full-time employees from the start. Still, there are options that will get you the help you need without the big spend. One option is hiring freelancers or contractors. Because you pay them per hour or per project and aren’t required to provide employee benefits, you can save a significant amount of money on staffing. Another option is to hire part-time help if your needs are small. With either staffing option, you have the benefit of getting to know how an individual works, and if you like what they do, you can offer them a more permanent, full-time role down the road. Most entrepreneurs take on the bulk of the workload themselves at the start, then hire gradually as revenues and profits permit. Starting a business right now is not without its challenges, but it’s also got plenty of potential for long-term success if you plan ahead. Ty Kiisel has been writing about small business and the business finance topics that impact a business's bottom line for almost 20 years. With over 35 years in the trenches as a Main Street business evangelist, author, and marketing veteran, he makes the maze of small business finance accessible by weaving personal experiences and other anecdotes into a regular discussion of some of the biggest challenges facing small business owners today.
Guest Post by Dan Christensen, Board Certified Personal Injury Attorney The last few months have been fraught with challenges for business owners, who carry the weight of their employees' paychecks and their clients' reliance on their products and services. For many businesses, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left them with significantly reduced profits and uncertainty regarding when and at what capacity they'll be able to resume operations. Most businesses have contingency plans for the unexpected, be that a break-in or a natural disaster that causes them to shut down temporarily. Prolonged closures shrouded in uncertainty, however, are more complicated. A common step in preparing for potential disasters is business interruption insurance, which provides protection against lost income or extra expenses that can occur due to a disaster, such as a fire or theft, that's covered by an individual business's insurance plan. In the wake of country-wide closures and lockdowns, many companies that have business interruption insurance are finding that their policies, at least at face value, don't cover viruses or viral pandemics. However, since these are unprecedented times, many business owners across the United States are filing lawsuits against some of the biggest insurance companies to fight for coverage. To help business owners better understand their options, we're breaking down the following: How to find out if your business is covered by your current policy The steps to take if you believe you have a claim What to do if your claim has been denied How to find out if your business is covered by your current policy Whether you had to close your business because of mandated lockdowns or had to increase expenses to ensure your business could continue to operate given new health and safety measures, you might be eligible to recover those funds through your business interruption insurance. The first step you'll need to take is to read through your policy from start to finish, keeping an eye on what's included, especially as it relates to viruses or viral pandemics. It is entirely possible that your policy won't mention either of those situations, but that doesn't mean your business can't be covered. Even if the policy doesn't mention viruses, for instance, you could potentially argue that this type of coverage was not meant to be excluded by your insurance carrier. On the other hand, if your policy does mention viruses, there are legal theories that support business insurance policies accepting claims for the novel coronavirus. While most business interruption insurance policies cover situations in which a business experiences property damage and must end or reduce operations as a result, this does not mean the policy applies to only typical property damage. For example, a business could argue that the ability to use the property was unusable because of physical forces. Steps to take if you believe you have a claim Once you've determined that your business interruption insurance policy should cover losses you've experienced due to COVID-19, you can file a claim with your insurance compliance for damages and losses related to net profit, overhead, and labor. It's important that you understand which claims apply to your business to maximize your return. Your business might be entitled to coverage for losses other than those experienced because you simply weren't able to operate on your property. For example, if new damage occurred on the property while you weren't able to occupy it, you might be able to recover the cost for repairs. Based on your policy type, claims can include business interruption, civil authority, and dependent property coverage, all of which vary in typical length of coverage by your insurer. Business interruption insurance and dependent property coverage usually cover businesses for 12 months, whereas civil authority coverage is usually for just one month. When taking the initial step to file your claim, you may want to consider speaking with a lawyer who can help you clearly identify the areas in which you might be eligible for coverage. What to do if your claim has been denied Since the spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States, thousands of businesses have filed business interruption insurance claims, and many have been denied, with insurers citing policy exclusions (even on policies that don't have any exclusions). These insurance companies, however, cannot reasonably argue that the novel coronavirus hasn't caused the suspension of businesses across the country, which has resulted in significant losses. If your business interruption insurance claim has been denied and you believe your business is entitled to it, your option is taking the claim to court. Insurance policies are typically written in generalized language that favors the insurance company, but courts often favor insurance coverage by construing policy exclusions through a more narrow lens. If you want to take action, it’s best to meet with an attorney to understand your rights and help navigate the complexities of making and arguing such claims. As more businesses look to file such claims during this time, more precedents will be set in the court that you can use in your favor, which a lawyer can help to discern. Dan Christensen is the owner and founder of DC Law, a highly rated personal injury law firm in Austin, Texas. Over the last 25 years, Christensen has been involved in nearly 200 trials and gone up against some of the largest defendants, including the U.S. Government, in numerous state and federal courts. Christensen is also board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, meaning he is listed among the small percentage (about 7 percent) of licensed attorneys in the state of Texas who have earned the right to publicly represent themselves as a specialist in a select area of the law.
Guest Post by Travis Crabtree People across the nation are starting new nonprofit organizations at an unprecedented rate. In March 2020, nonprofit organizations increased by 39 percent when compared to other types of businesses, according to Swyft Filings proprietary data. It's no coincidence this spike in nonprofit formation is happening during a global pandemic. This crisis has inspired people who want to make a difference. For many, the best way to help is by starting a nonprofit to bring a mission to life. Whether it's from the effects of a devastating pandemic or rampant social injustice, nonprofits assist communities in need by providing people, supplies, money, organization, and other much needed aid. If you want to start your own nonprofit to help those in need and further the public good, this guide can show you the way. 1. Determine your mission and create your purpose statement The first step when creating any nonprofit is to create a purpose statement. Let's say you want to help people through the COVID-19 crisis. How exactly are you going to help? Are you equipping healthcare workers with needed medical supplies? Donating financial resources to people who lost their jobs? Providing books, tablets, and internet access to disadvantaged kids whose schools have closed? Finding forever homes for all the puppies and kitties who were given up for adoption when their owners could no longer care for them? Declaring your specific purpose doesn't just give your nonprofit clarity and direction; it's the law. The IRS requires that all 501(c)(3) organizations include a purpose statement in their articles of incorporation to receive tax-exempt status. 2. Organize your leadership Many new nonprofits start as simple one-person operations. You might be the founder, executive director, and entire staff all by yourself. But as you grow, you're going to have to get organized. To run efficiently, nonprofits, like any business, must appoint people to leadership positions. These include managers, directors, executives, and administrative staff. You'll need a board of directors to hire executives, provide oversight, and vote on major financial and strategic decisions. In fact, many states require nonprofits to have at least three officers — two of whom cannot live in the same home. States view nonprofits as truly public entities. They want oversight from more than one person so the entity is not abused. 3. Incorporate While not a legal necessity, incorporating your nonprofit can be an excellent idea. An alternative is setting up an unincorporated nonprofit association, but this only works for small, limited income organizations. On the other hand, you can incorporate even if you are the only employee of your nonprofit, and there are significant advantages if you plan on growing. Incorporation limits liability, adds authenticity to your organization, and typically only costs a few hundred dollars with filing fees. Despite the obvious lack of profits, a nonprofit is still considered a business by state law. Your incorporation will be filed at the state level. Startup costs and processes can vary greatly depending on where you live, but most jurisdictions require your nonprofit to follow specific naming conventions and create bylaws and articles of incorporation. Naming Be sure your name accurately reflects your cause. Search both state and federal trademark listings to make sure that your chosen name is unique and not already taken by another organization in your state. To signify that you are incorporated, most states also require your nonprofit's to use an identifying suffix such as "company," "corporation," "incorporated," or "limited" in its official name. Articles of Incorporation Your Articles of Incorporation is a document necessary to officially form your organization with the state. It might also be called a "Charter Document" or "Certificate of Incorporation." Regardless of the name, your Articles of Incorporation should include: Organization name Type of nonprofit Incorporators Directors Purpose statement Registered agent and contact information Designation of stock or non-stock Statement of membership or non-membership-based Bylaws Your nonprofit should also have a set of bylaws. If you are going to file for tax-exempt status with your state or the IRS requirement, you will have to submit your bylaws. These establish the ground rules for how the nonprofit will be run, managed, and who will make certain decisions. The bylaws of every organization are different, but for nonprofits, they typically include: Board members Board meetings schedules Procedures for changing bylaws Voting rules Conflict resolution Committee creation and dissolution Winding down and dissolution procedures 4. Apply for licenses and tax exemptions After incorporation, your next step is to apply for a local business license. This allows your nonprofit to operate locally, manage sales, and file employment taxes. Nonprofits are usually tax-exempt, but it's not an automatic process. You need to obtain 501(c)(3) status by filing Form 1023 with the IRS. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the IRS website and follow their detailed Form 1023 checklist. This step becomes much simpler if your organization is already incorporated. You're not done yet. Don't forget about state and local taxes. After you receive federal approval from the IRS, you'll want to seek exemption from sales tax, property taxes, and state income tax. To maintain your tax-exempt status, your organization must file Form 990 with the IRS every year. 5. Register to receive donations Your nonprofit won't have much of an impact if you can't raise funds. State laws regulate charitable fundraising activities, and most states require you to register before you can solicit funds. This doesn't just apply to the state you're based in; you'll need to register in every state from which you take donations. If someone from Rhode Island wants to give you money, you better be registered in Rhode Island to legally accept, even if you're based in California. To put it simply, if you're doing any kind of fundraising, especially online, your nonprofit should consider filing a registration form in all 50 states. Consider outsourcing to simplify the process All this might sound complicated, and it is, but don't let that dissuade you from starting a nonprofit and doing good in this world. COVID-19 has impacted millions, and we need people willing to help now more than ever. If you're worried about all the little legal hurdles, consider outsourcing this part. There are companies that specialize in helping you navigate all the filing and paperwork for starting a nonprofit. They can make sure the proper forms are filed with the appropriate government bodies so you can concentrate on the important work of helping those in need. Regardless of if you go through a filing company or tackle the typing yourself, thank you for working toward the public good. Get out there and make a positive impact. Travis Crabtree is the president of Swyft Filings, a document filing service that assists clients with starting, growing, and managing businesses.
You don't have to be a perfect dad to make a tremendous impact on your kids' futures. You don't have to avoid failure. You don't have to retire early. You don't have to hold a prestigious position. And if your work-life balance feels off, there's a good chance your family is understanding of the pressures you're facing. Turns out you just need to do the best you can with what you have. Bonus points if you do it with love. We reached out to entrepreneurs of diverse professional backgrounds to see how their fathers have influenced their career decisions and identities. Their responses reveal inspiring stories, cautionary tales, and helpful takeaways for fathers to consider as they seek to teach their children the most crucial values in business and in life. Tara Ackaway, founder and CEO of Social Wise Communications "My father has inspired me in business because of his strength as a leader and incredible determination to succeed. Since I was a little girl, I was always motivated to be just like my dad both in life and business. He is kind, but not weak. He's taught me how to develop and show more empathy in the workplace. Most importantly, he taught me that I must never get too busy building an empire that I forget to build a life. That sentiment is something I hold close to my heart and will never forget." Paige Arnoff-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls "Although my dad spent his career in corporate America, much of the advice and lessons he taught me applies to entrepreneurs as well. Here are the most valuable lessons he taught me:Share success. When good things happen, make sure everyone who contributed is acknowledged and rewarded, not just the people at the top. In order to learn from every experience and not repeat any mistakes, it's important to share the lessons you learn, too. If those around you feel part of the process, they'll work even harder to guarantee a positive outcome. Give back. Be active in your community. Business leaders must stay connected to the local organizations and should encourage their colleagues to get involved, as well. Local hospitals, schools, and non-profits can all benefit from business leaders' advice and support, so be generous with your time and resources." Cathy Baillargeon, owner of Virtual Cathy "After 30 dedicated years, my father retired from the railroad tired and burnt out. What I remember most about him growing up were the long hours he worked, his absence in our family, and how much he hated his job at the very end. He has inspired me not only to create a business to help support entrepreneurs avoid this feeling of burnout within their own business, but also to build it family-focused and flexible, not only for me but for my employees as well. His career was a prime example that no money was worth the misery he experienced in his work life." Maria M. Barlow, founder of The Law Offices of Maria M. Barlow, LLC “I am a family law attorney. I grew up in a two-parent home where I learned that having an active father is invaluable and both parents are valuable and needed. The benefits I received from having my father inspired me to fight tooth and nail to ensure all fathers have access and parenting time with their kids.” Chelsey Brown, founder of City Chic Decor “My father was the definition of a helicopter parent when I was growing up. It took 27 years for me to fully appreciate his extra-involvement during my younger years. His push for me to go above and beyond in life is the reason I push myself to exceed my goals every single day. He’s the first person I call when something exciting happens with my business!" Suzanne Brown, CEO of Oksuzi Strategy "My father has often said that your word and a handshake are enough. You do whatever you said you would do when you said you would do it. It seems pretty simple, but it's often not how people run their businesses and lives. Nowadays, I do utilize a contract for new projects, but integrity is very much a pillar of my businesses." Kira Cahill, co-founder of Bold Box “My father has inspired me in so many ways and encouraged me to pursue a business that set my soul on fire and that I truly believe in. For me, that was a company that had the potential to change lives and benefit the world. Having just started my own eco-friendly company with my co-founder, my father's advice and support have been invaluable. My passion drives me and keeps me going during the difficult times and the great times!” Annie Calhoun, founder of Annie Beth Fitness, LLC "As an entrepreneur from a family with a long history of business ownership and entrepreneurship, my father has been extremely influential in my own business endeavors. From being my biggest fan and number one supporter to always encouraging me to follow my dreams, my father has taught me many important lessons. He taught me to never give up (even during the rough times), to always put the customer first, and to never be afraid of being innovative and creative. My father, Dean Calhoun [featured below], has grown his company into an international success, and it is his hard work that encourages me to continue growing my business into an equivalent success!” Dean Calhoun, CEO of Affygiility Solutions “My father was also a small business owner, and I started working for him at a very early age. To this day, his work ethic inspired me to always show up on time, work hard even when others aren’t watching, and don’t complain about the customers — they are the ones paying the bills.” Paul Cannon, shareholder at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. "My father was a CPA. He used to tell me how, as a young man working as a bank teller, he would stay late to help the other tellers and the head teller even though my father had already clocked out. When the head teller got a new job, the boss asked him who could take over when he left. Don Cannon can do the job,' he replied. 'He knows everyone’s job.' I learned from that story that when you treat the people you work with like you are all in the same boat, you will rise in the organization. I started with Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. in 1994 as a law clerk with 'no opportunity for an associate position.' As a clerk, I helped the over-worked paralegals get their job done. Now, I am a shareholder. Dad knew what he was talking about. Now I try to stop, understand, assist, and encourage our employees in whatever they are doing. I want us all to feel like we are a team, rising together." Elisabeth Cardiello, owner of Caffé Unimatic “From giving me my first business cards when I was six years old to making my title on those cards more senior than his, my dad instilled in me that I was here to create. Over coffee every morning, he'd remind me that 'what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve,' and we'd talk for hours about human psychology, business ideas, and resilience. After losing him suddenly when I was 26, I started a coffee company created to preserve his legacy, and that has allowed me to start to build my own through our Brave Conversations Over Coffee initiative. I couldn't be prouder of how he's been an ongoing inspiration to me and my business even after he's not physically with us.” Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group "I owe everything, from my work ethic, my desire for success, and my entrepreneurship skills to my father, a Mexican immigrant, Anselmo Castelán. There would have been no path to starting-up my business without my dad’s inspiration and encouragement. I saw how our dad worked long and hard to provide a living for our young family. It was ingrained in us from day one that the expectation in our household was to work hard and work smart. If you're doing a job, do it well the first time so you don't need to redo it. He was and is my inspiration." Larissa Castelluber, owner of Design Moves LLC "I have had a marketing business since I was 18 and had my office since college. My father kind of tricked me into taking the leap. I've always wanted a space to call my own for business and noticed there was a small space that was affordable. I told my parents about it, just in conversation, and my dad said he would help pay for it. I believed him and signed the lease. Oddly enough, I ended up paying the rent on my own, but he was the trigger to make me act and take one my first major risks at the time. I probably wouldn't have done it knowingly on my own. Several offices and employees later, I still run the same biz." Clint Coons, Esq., founding partner of Anderson Business Advisors “Although at the time I could not see the future personal benefit of spending many weekends working for my father on his various real estate holdings, I did learn some important life lessons: Tackle every job as if you are the owner, and opportunity is created through hard work. These life lessons have carried me through my career and serve as a reminder that anything can be accomplished if one is determined.” Kevin Crawford, founder of Kevin Crawford Consulting “My father was an executive with Toyota in the 1950s and 1960s — he was one of the people to bring the car manufacturer into the U.S. market — and he is the biggest inspiration to me in business and in life. He was a man of few words, but he was very character-driven. He didn’t talk much about his high standards, but he lived them every single day through the example he set. From him, I learned two lessons that have stayed with me all my life: 1) the power of relationships and 2) a lesser skilled, yet committed person of character is far more valuable than the smartest employee. I have had a fulfilling life and career with my father’s guiding example.” Jason Davis, CEO of Inspire360 "My dad is an entrepreneur, and I've been able to benefit from his advice throughout the years — especially now that I'm a CEO myself. The main thing he taught me about business is to focus on one thing at a time. He always references the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Because of him, my business has one big focus that everyone's driving towards. My father and the lessons he shares from Essentialism have helped me keep our team on the same page in terms of where we should put our energy, which has led to huge wins for us." Josh Eberly, owner of 717 Home Buyers "From when I was a very young age, my father taught me the values of reputation and caring deeply for those around you. As a kid, I always wondered why he often volunteered or took jobs for pennies on the dollar. As I matured, I realized it wasn’t because he was bad at business, it was because he saw the bigger picture. A business should be used for good, whether you are a massive corporation or a one-man show like my dad. This serves as a guiding principle in all of my business ventures to this day." Douglas Esiner, co-founder of The Calida Group "My father always gave 110 percent at both home and work. As far back as I can remember, he would get to the office by 6 a.m., be home for family dinner at 7 p.m., and then work after dinner until 11 p.m. And with whatever free time he did have, he gave 110 percent to that too. Whether it was nights out on the town with my mother, sports with his buddies, or digging up adventures with us kids on the weekends, everything was 110 percent. To this day I still try to give that same level of commitment to everything I do as well. I also love one of his favorite sayings, as it applies to both business and personal situations: 'Never miss an opportunity to do a favor.'" Niko Finnigan, partner at Delta Wealth Advisors "My father’s work as an entrepreneur taught me the importance of having a rewarding and flexible career. It also taught me the downsides of how and how often the buck stops with the owner. Without watching my parents’ work in building their own businesses, I wouldn’t have as much comfort with risk and driving my own success. In that way, it’s one of the greatest gifts they’ve given me." Paul Flanagan, president of Land Cravings, LLC "My father inspired me in my business indirectly by the comments other people made about the way he handled his business. Almost everyone I met said the same thing about my father. They would say, 'Your father has more integrity than anyone I know, and he's a good man.'" Alexandra Frumberg, founder of ALX Creatives “When I was a young girl, my father, Charles Frumberg, pushed me to pursue my passions. I remember expressing to him that my passion was photography and that it would be a difficult path to be an artist. But he insisted that I follow my heart, attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and pursue doing what made me happy. He taught me that if I'm fulfilled professionally, the success will follow. Every time I stumble or misstep, he is always there to put me right back on my path.” Jay Goldberg, creator of Bergino "When I was a child, my dad would repeatedly tell me, 'It's better to have one meal a day of your own than three meals from someone else.' It must have inspired me to work for myself because I've been doing so for the past 30 years." Elizabeth Grojean, founder of Baloo Living "I grew up with a dad who was working hard to build his business, so there wasn't much extra. When we kids wanted something, we had to find ways to earn it with lemonade stands, car washes, or garage sales. Later on, when I needed capital to start my company, I didn't consider asking my family. But my dad offered to loan me just enough to fund our first production order, which made everything possible. Only later did I find out that my grandfather had done the same for him; and it's meant a great deal for my dad to give me that gift. I'm grateful that I needed help because now my dad and I are bonded in a new way, as entrepreneurs.” DJ Haddad, co-founder of 321 Ignition "I don’t think my father 'dispensed wisdom' in the traditional sense, but I learned a lot by watching and working with him over the summers. I wasn’t familiar with the term 'entrepreneur' until my late twenties, but I suppose that’s what he was. (Although by this definition every Lebanese-American is probably an entrepreneur; I challenge you to find one of us with just a single job or business.) He taught history for a while, he owned an arcade for a brief stint, and he owned a pawnshop for decades; this is how most people knew Dave. Working alongside him at the pawnshop was an invaluable experience, even if I didn’t realize it until adulthood. Of all the lessons, I think the biggest was in dealing with people. Pawnshops attract an eclectic group of people on a daily basis; wealthy clientele, poor clientele, people who just made fortunes, people who just lost them, criminals looking to sell items, cops who are looking for those items; it was impossible to guess who would walk in the door the next minute and what their story might be. This environment taught you to think quickly, but it also forced me to learn empathy. My father was adept at navigating all of these scenarios and the personalities that accompanied them, but more than that he was empathetic and respectful to everyone, regardless of their background or current situation. Watching this in action helped prepare me well for a high-speed agency lifestyle where I am constantly communicating and having to shift gears between designers, developers, project managers, writers, and clients." Duane Hardy, president of Forklift Systems "My father taught me to work hard during the good times and harder during the bad. Always be prepared financially to withstand the unexpected. This has been particularly helpful advice during the current economic crisis." Jeremy Harrison, founder of Hustle Life "'What does not kill me makes me stronger.' That's what my father used to say. He loved reading, and this phrase by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was his favorite expression. It has helped me a lot in my life, from puberty to college to entrepreneurship. I never give up because I believe each obstacle I overcome makes me even stronger." Lars Helgeson, CEO of GreenRope "My dad was a high school science teacher. He would take me to his science class and let me sit in and listen. I got to be comfortable taking care of all the animals in his lab. Snakes, lizards, rats, birds, and even ant lions were all part of the experience. His students took part in caring and feeding them, and they developed a learning connection stronger than anything a textbook could teach. It made me see the difference it makes to students when you go the extra mile to give them a rich experience. Whether you're a student or a customer, people notice when you make the effort to make their time and money worth the investment." Allison Hernandez, co-founder and managing partner at lotus823 "My father was orphaned at a young age and could not afford to go to college. But he went from a stock boy to president at the largest privately owned jewelry retailer in the United States at that time. He would often talk about starting his own business, but with a family to support, it was too much of a risk. He stayed with the company for more than 40 years, and I feel he always regretted not taking the steps to go out on his own. Thanks to the valuable lessons I learned from my father, I felt confident in the idea that becoming an entrepreneur was the right path for me." Scott Hester, franchise owner with Mr. Transmission "Shortly after I took over at my own store and was struggling with the responsibilities of ownership, my father, Lowell, told me, 'It’s not the land, it’s the man.' I had to look in the mirror and see what I needed to do. If the phone isn’t ringing, you need to change what you are doing and figure it out. That was 15 years ago and it has served me well. It has definitely been a long road. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve learned from them. I listened to what my dad was doing instead of doing it my way. It has helped me out a lot.” Shel Horowitz, founder of Going Beyond Sustainability "My dad has been an entrepreneur his entire working life. He had his own chiropractic office and usually had two or three side businesses: booking singles' weekends in the Catskills, selling encyclopedias, private tutoring, etc. He's now 89 and makes his living as an investor. He taught me two important lessons: 1) you don't have to be stuck in corporate hell — there are other paths — and 2) you can pursue your deepest interests (in his case, ballroom dancing, tennis, and the stock market)." Amira Irfan, Esq., founder of A Self Guru “When I was growing up, my father got sued as an entrepreneur for $90,000. This is because he failed to enter into a legal contract with a freelancer that he had hired. It turned our lives upside down. Not only did our family go into lots of debt, but we were also constantly stressed for years. This heartbreaking and expensive lawsuit changed my life. I realized I wanted to become a lawyer and help other entrepreneurs like my father avoid making the same legal mistakes that leave you financially and emotionally broken. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what my family went through, so I not only became a lawyer but I also started my online business where I make sure business owners have all the proper legal documents and contract templates in place to protect their business and sleep peacefully at night.” Zain Jaffer, founder and CEO of Zain Ventures "My father fled with nothing but the clothes on his back as a refugee from Tanzania during the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. He has endured horrific hardships and didn’t think twice about working two jobs to provide for his family. His positive, hard-working, never-complain-about-anything attitude instilled in me the right work ethic that nurtured the massive entrepreneurial energy needed to get my company started. As my tech company, Vungle, became successful, I was able to give back to both my parents in a way that allowed them to retire and travel. Now, if my dad fixes a car, it’s because it’s fun to do so and because that’s what he wants to do. While selling my company was certainly life-changing for me as an entrepreneur, it’s been fun to be able to have it be life-changing for my parents as well." Lisa Kahn, founder of Lisa Kahn Designs "My dad encouraged and helped me start my interior design business in 2000. He loaned me the money, made me a document binder, and wrote a quote to me in the front that reads: 'Integrity is what you do when no one is looking.' I have opened that binder, read it, and thought about that quote a million times. I often pause to consider how he would handle a difficult situation. When he passed several years ago, I was lost without his ongoing support and counsel, but it’s interesting how other angels come into our lives and fill roles of coach, mentor, and advisor just when we need them most. Thank you, Dad for starting me on the right path." Daniel Koffler, founder and president of New Frontiers "My father, who I have worked with for many years, has always expressed — verbally and non-verbally —some version of the concept that 'the early bird gets the worm.' In terms of time utilization, he demonstrated it with his own schedule and habits, which I translated into an understanding that if you wake up a little bit earlier, or stay a little longer, that extra time can literally add up to years of productivity (professional or personal)! It set the tone for how I attempt to manage the competing personal, family and professional interests that make up my life. I’m able to work efficiently, spend time with my family, and do things for myself, such as travel, read, exercise, and relax. While it’s not easy to fit it all in every day, waking up a bit earlier and being prepared to work non-traditional hours help me make sure I don’t let opportunities slip. And now that I’m a father myself, I have a much deeper appreciation for exactly what goes into making this all look so doable." George Kuhn, president of Drive Research "My entire family worked in the auto business, including my father, who began his career as a mechanic at age 18. I am the only member of my family to step outside of the auto business with a career in market research. My business name and its logo is modeled after my father's two classic Oldsmobile cars. The 'drive' part of our name pays homage to my family roots and recognizes the incredible work ethic he passed down to me." Umberto Luchini, founder and proprietor of Wolf Spirit Distillery of Blood x Sweat x Tears Vodka “I was born in Milan, schooled in the United Kingdom, and started my career in France; all of that privilege was, of course, made possible through the hard work and example of my parents. In my thirties, the multi-national I worked for offered me a transfer to the United States. I jumped at the chance, moved to San Francisco, and became a United States citizen in 2007. By 2017, I had been working for that same company for 17 years, which was not at all strange to me as my father had been loyal to his company for his entire career. Also following in my father’s footsteps, I always banked a full 50 percent of my salary. Yes, it meant living in small apartments and limiting spending, but it was always what he had done, so I did it, too. That is what allowed me, in 2018, to make the leap of a lifetime to start my own company." Simone Marsiglia, founder and owner of Gas Stations Services Corp. "There is no substitute for hard work. This is something I have truly embodied in everything that I do, from being a business owner to being a husband and father. Coming from Italy and relocating my family and business to South Florida, hard work has been integral to really drive my business forward. This is something that even at a young age I try to instill in my daughter. I was lucky to have a father that loved what he did and as I became a business owner, I realized it’s also important to love what you do. The last thing my father instilled in me is to always make time for family. No matter what, he was never too busy to busy to play a game of fútbol. No matter how busy I am, this has always stuck with me. My wife and daughter are my priority, and I’ve been lucky and dedicated to being able to find a proper work-life balance no matter how crazy it gets at times." Joe Mazur, founder of Amaze Properties LLC "My father, Paul, is the hardest worker I know, in all aspects of his life. He worked from the ground up at a company when he was 20 years old, all the way to CFO by age 50, putting in at least 60 hours every single week. Outside of his job, when there is work that needs to be done, he does it, always without objection, and very often with a smile on his face. But he is also careful and thorough, trying to understand the entire problem before he makes any decisions. These traits, which together I call calculated drive, has no doubt rubbed off on me and inspired me in how I run my business." Terry McDougall, founder of Terry B. McDougall Coaching "My dad is a working-class guy who can do anything from car repair to electrical work to carpentry to welding: you name it. I have been tremendously inspired by his 'can-do' attitude, self-confidence, and work ethic, and the countless times that he achieved amazing things by applying himself. Because of his example, I've always believed that if I can imagine it, I can figure it out and make it happen. That's given me the courage to face challenges as a business owner." Michael Miedler, CEO of Century 21 Real Estate “I worked for my dad’s roofing business every summer and after school to make money. He was my first boss, and to be honest, we had a real love-hate relationship. Basically, he worked my tail off and pushed my limits to test my physical and mental toughness. Most importantly, I learned how to care for the customer. Never once did he have to market or advertise. All his customers came from referrals or word of mouth. Thankfully, I learned from him at a very early age the importance of hard work, connecting with people, and caring about the customer above all else.” Michael Misetic, CEO and founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning “I grew up without my father in my life, but I was fortunate enough to have two men who really inspired me. The first was my grandpa, an entrepreneur and inventor. He had so much energy and so many unique ideas — he really thought outside the box and that’s driven me to do the same. It’s funny, as a kid I wanted to be like him so much that, during one of my first haircuts, I asked the barber to give me my grandpa’s haircut — including the bald spot! Ron Brewer was also a big inspiration. He was a former NBA player and my basketball coach as a kid. Since my dad wasn’t in my life, he really took me under his wing. He picked me up from school, dropped me off at home, and gave me workout routines. He really taught me the value of discipline, hard work, and teamwork — all of which have been key to my company’s success.” John Norce, president of Medicare Portal "Looking back on my childhood, I can see how much my father impacted my passion for business and entrepreneurship. I do not think my dad scripted my work experience, but, looking back, I can see that each opportunity he provided allowed me to grow and learn. My second job at age 11 was as a paperboy, because he said it would teach me about business and responsibility. After that, I got a job at 13, despite 14 being the legal work age, as a cabana boy because he wanted me to work for tips and learn what earning a paycheck was about. Finally, I had the opportunity to work with him at our family business and had the privilege of observing him as he sold, handled customer service, developed relationships, managed employees, and grew the business. Until his passing a few years ago, my father was my go-to, no-cost business consultant, de-facto chairman of the board, sales trainer, and operations manager." Wendy O'Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz "When I was growing up, my dad was the publisher of several newspapers along the East Coast. He showed me that when you are good to your people, they do great work and everyone thrives. I built my marketing communications firm on that principle, and we have grown to join the 1 percent of women-owned small businesses to exceed $1 million in revenues. Dad was right!" Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos, founder and principal of LifeManaged "My father immigrated to the United States when he was 18, in 1977, and he didn't speak English. He managed to learn our language, go to university, start and sell a restaurant business, and retire before 55 years old. He is the definition of the American Dream, pursuing a better life and opportunity in our great country and proving that anyone can create something. He has always told me that I am the master of my own destiny and that will always stick. This continues to drive me so that I can create the same experiences for my kids that he did for me." Chris Panteli, founder of LifeUpswing "My father inspired me by example. I took over the family business of a 'fish and chip' shop which he started. His drive and determination to start it inspired me to continue it. I now run a successful business, a new blog, while continuing to search for new opportunities. Witnessing my father's achievements empowered me to accomplish my own." Christine Perkett, CEO of Mindfull Marketing + PR "My father was an entrepreneur himself, having left a large architectural firm in Chicago to start his own firm, which he still runs today in his seventies. I learned a lot from watching him navigate the challenges and opportunities of life as an entrepreneur. He always told me, 'It’s all about your network.' He didn’t necessarily say anything that made me think of becoming an entrepreneur, but this piece of advice was huge in helping me to do so. I moved to Boston after college with $200 in my pocket and I knew one person. I built my business and my network through hard work, determination, and respectful outreach." Nin Pfister, co-founder of MAG PR "My father, Marty Barnes, is the oldest of five children, born and raised in a blue-collar suburban town near Boston, Massachusettes. My grandfather, the initial patriarch of our family who passed away years ago, was a decorated veteran of the United States Marine Corps — a wonderful, multi-faceted man with an infectious smile and a gift for leading by example with his unmatched work ethic. As far back as I can remember, my dad has carried on that legacy that I so admire, going above and beyond to achieve his dream of building an award-winning steel construction business over the last two decades, working endless hours for many years while parenting three children of his own. Meanwhile, my dad has been present for every memorable moment of my life, burning the candle on both ends to ensure he never misses a beat with our family. He inspired me to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship four years ago — to harness my talents, embrace my passion, and believe that it is possible to do it all — as a dedicated wife, mother, and business owner." Jessica Rhoades, owner of Create IT Web Designs "My father worked very hard for many years in IT. He was always up early and out the door by 6 a.m. He worked hard, had great integrity, and enjoyed the work that he did. After my father passed, I received letters from his old co-workers, who I had never met, telling stories and all had the theme of integrity and hard work. I kept all those letters and to this day in my own business I make sure at the forefront of my core values are integrity, honesty, and hard work." Stephanie Riel, owner of RielDeal Marketing "Without a doubt, my late father has been the main source of inspiration for my journey into entrepreneurship. My father lived the American Dream. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s as a young boy from Germany and worked hard to build a life and a successful real estate career in the United States. Witnessing his work ethic, drive, and passion for making his own path throughout my adolescence was an influential force to my work ethic and passion for business. His is a legacy I strive to continue to build for myself, even after his death." Holly Rollins, president of 10x digital “My father was a ‘farmpreneur’ and worked only for himself since he was a young man. He had a very autonomous spirit and was gifted with the ability to ‘commune’ with animals that naturally gravitated and ‘listened’ to him. While I wasn’t blessed with that agricultural gene, I did learn to be self-sufficient and lean in the entrepreneurial direction. I knew — from my Dad’s mentoring — that working for yourself isn’t easy. However, I’ve inherited his passion to be self-governing. I take pride in managing a business and environment where I can mold more of my destiny, create jobs and opportunities for others, and have a major role in achieving successes for my clients." Jessica Rosen, co-founder of Raw Generation “I am in a unique position where I am a business owner alongside my father. We started our company together back in 2012 and I have since been constantly inspired by my dad’s ability to always set the bar higher, time after time. He is always forward-looking and pushes our company to innovate faster, adapt, and grow.” Seth Rouch, owner of Seth Buys Houses “My father passed away from cancer at age 63 in 2013. He was always an inspiration to me in creating who I am, but as for how he influenced my business, he will unfortunately never get to see. My father and mother, both checkers and stockers at Safeway making minimum wage, realized that it wasn't going to be a sustainable income as they now had three kids, a mortgage, student loans, car payments, and basic living expenses. So my father went back to school at age 40 to become a pharmacist. He drove three hours, one way for an entire year to make this happen while allowing us to stay near friends and family. His determination still inspires me as I've grown and am now 36. I desire to provide as well as he did for my wife and children as well as provide something to people that will help their lives.” Natacha Seroussi, co-creator of LaFlore "My father is not just an inspiration to me: he's the reason for what I do. As a little girl, I had the very special opportunity to watch him build a successful accessories brand from the ground up, witnessing the hard work and dedication that it took, but also the passion within him that his efforts fulfilled. From an early age, he instilled in me a great love of fine craftsmanship and design that has stayed with me and helped me to find my own path in life. While our paths have been similar, he's always encouraged me to follow my modern values and aesthetics to make something unique that I'm lucky to share with him as co-creators of our LaFlore bag." Jacques Spitzer, CEO and founder of Raindrop "My father was a real estate agent my entire life and I got to see him go through the highs and lows of the markets. He always said, 'Positive activity breeds activity,' and it is incredibly helpful to remember that most of your efforts in business won’t see immediate or instant results, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to build into something significant!" Stephanie Stuckey, CEO of Stuckey’s Corporation "I'm the third-generation Stuckey to run our family's roadside chain founded by my grandfather in 1937 and then run by my father before me. So I've had two generations of father figures to inspire my business philosophy. My grandfather had a quote he kept framed on his desk: 'Every traveler is a friend.' It was aimed at road travelers, our customer base, but I apply to everyone we deal with in our company — customer, vendors, employees, truckers, advertisers, etc. We're all travelers through life. Leading my company with a culture of friendship towards all is how my grandfather inspired me." Denise Supplee, co-founder of SparkRental "I was blessed to have my father as a mentor and teacher throughout my life. He was a never-give-up entrepreneur that had successes and failures. Because of him, I too had the bite of the entrepreneur bug. I have had many businesses. Some were successes and some not so much. One of the biggest lessons my dad taught me was about the failures. He said, 'Never look at a failure as the end. Rather look at it as a teacher.' He would joke that failures and the financial loss of them were merely nothing more than college tuition." Talbot Sutter, broker and president of Sutter & Nugent Real Estate "My father inspired me to pursue a career in real estate because he showed me that with hard work and dedication you can have limitless earning power and be your own boss. I also remember him coaching me through my first cold call at 18 years old and emphasizing the importance of being confident and delivering a clear and precise message to potential clients — advice I still share with my agents today." Romy Taormina, CEO and founder of Psi Health Solutions, Inc. “My father has inspired me by modeling compassion, hard-work, and integrity. These are daily values that I incorporate into my personal and professional life that have served me well in my long-standing relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. They are values that I hope my own children will carry with them throughout their lives. When we operate from a place of goodness, everyone wins.” Landon Taylor, CEO of Best Company "My pops, Steve Taylor, was the epitome of grit. I watched him turn his trade of construction worker as a young father of five into a general contractor who owned his own business as my siblings and I got older and eventually left the house. He woke up early, put in the work, and always got the job done well. Throughout my journey as an entrepreneur, I've leaned on that example many times. I'm so grateful for my father's example." Melissa Terzis, broker and realtor at DC Real Estate Mama "My dad worked in various New York City law firms before opening his own practice where he truly thrived in our Connecticut town. He's been full of great advice over the years at times when I needed it most. When I was considering going back to school for a master's degree he said, 'This is the best idea I've heard from you in a while — no one can ever take an education away from you.' And when I was working for a land developer who was doing some unethical things, my father said, 'Don't ever let anyone ruin your name and reputation — it's all you have.'" R.J. Weiss, founder of The Ways to Wealth "I worked with my father for ten years. I was next in line to take over a fourth-generation family insurance business. However, he knew my heart wasn't in it. The best thing my dad ever said to me was, 'Never do something because it makes me happy, do what makes you happy.' It was this advice that gave me the courage and inspiration to leave the family business and start my own — a decision that has worked out very well for both of us." Ryan Witt, Director of Operations at Healthy Life Recovery "My father taught me the importance of human relationships in business. His saying was, 'You’re born alone and you die alone. Meet as many people as you can along the way.' Friendships and partnerships were everything to him, and he made sure to underscore to me the benefits of a strong and active business network. Today, I am constantly working to develop genuine connections with others. Not only does it help your personal growth, but as your business and network expand, you're able to elevate the people around you as well."
Guest Post by Connie Benton The last couple of decades have been nothing but an unstoppable drive for innovation. The problem is, innovation often comes with new risks. Many people immediately think of Tesla's unfortunate 2018 accident involving faulty autopilot. Risk is a huge problem for the self-driving cars industry, but security issues stifle digital innovation as well. A survey by Webroot found that 400 out of 500 senior decision-makers in the United Kingdom believe that cybersecurity risks prevent innovation. If that's true, how can innovation and security intersect? Read on to find out. And even if you’re not creating the next big thing in tech, it’s a good idea to implement many of these tips in your business of any type. What risks does digital innovation pose? The biggest risk when it comes to digital innovation is data breach. This may not have been a huge issue just a decade ago, but now websites and apps gather huge pools of information on their users in an effort to personalize their experiences. An average database consists of a massive amount of personal information including names, email addresses, passwords, and possibly linked banking accounts of users. If any of this information is mishandled, it opens up an opportunity for identity theft and fraud. Commercial apps and websites that gather data on users are suffering plenty from this problem, but it hits government apps even harder. Imagine a data breach in a social security app, and you can understand why making government services more accessible online is a huge feat. But you’re probably not creating an app for your state, you just want to innovate to better serve your customers. Here are three main steps that you need to go through to make sure your business pivots are both innovative and secure. 1. Implement cybersecurity best practices Before you set out to create a piece of innovative tech, you’ll need to implement all of the best practices that the cybersecurity industry has developed over the years. This starts with the most basic things. Keep everything password-protected You’d be surprised how many data breaches happen because the developers forgot to put a password on a database that’s meant to be private. In 2017, Verizon suffered a breach that led to 6 million accounts being exposed. Why did that happen? It turned out, employees stored data publicly, with no password, so the hackers didn’t even sweat it to get their hands on private user information. Don’t make this easily avoided mistake and protect your databases with a strong password that changes monthly. Utilize two-factor authentication The next big cybersecurity threat is social engineering attacks, also known as phishing. These allow hackers to defraud users out of their passwords to your platform. From there, they may be able to defraud them of money or identity information as well. The easiest way to prevent this is to have a two-factor authentication system in place. Then, even if the password is compromised, the fraudsters won’t be able to access your users' accounts without having access to their email or mobile phone. This greatly reduces the impact of data breaches. Educate employees Just like your customers, your employees also can be victims of a social engineering attack. If they happen to have a virus on their laptops and log in to work from home, this can endanger your whole system. Veronica Seann from Cake HR Software provides a list of tips that help you keep your employees and your company safe: If you have a bring your own device policy or remote workers, let them log into the system with a firewall. Train employees to recognize phishing attempts. Only use work emails for handling secure data. Make a policy of changing the password frequently. Encrypt data The previous three tips will make sure your employees and users don’t fall victim to hackers that go for the low-hanging fruit. If you want to implement advanced measures, look into data encryption. Some outdated hashing methods may give hackers the ability to reverse engineer the encrypted data. Use the latest and strongest methods of encryption like the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-256) to make sure that’s impossible. De-identify data If you do suffer a data breach, ensure your customers don't suffer by de-identifying the data you store. Remove from the database, mask, or store in different hashes all the information that can link personally identifiable data to the stolen data. Scan for breaches Don’t let the fraudsters be ahead of you. Scan for suspicious activity that may indicate a breach has happened. If you integrate a data breach scanning software into your system, you’ll be able to act before damage is done. 2. Think like a hacker With every new technology, with every new sensitive database, comes the potential for abuse. Don’t let the hackers outsmart you. Instead, think about the potential abuse right when you’re developing the architecture for your software. Look for weaknesses that can be exploited and eliminate them. For instance, you may be storing passwords for a less sensitive database in plain text, but access to that database exposes poorly hashed passwords for a database that contains sensitive information. That’s sure going to be taken advantage of and you need to improve on this mistake. Dmytro Vdovychynskyi, a security engineer from Preply gives this advice regarding developing a secure software architecture: “Thinking about security only in a few contexts or like on one-time action is a disastrous way. Of course, everything depends on organization goals but it must be done in a measurable way and built into development in all stages of the system development life cycle: from planning till maintenance." Vdovychynskyi explains that, currently, the two most popular frameworks in software development are OWASP Software Assurance Maturity Model and Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle. 3. Hire cybersecurity testers Do you store extremely sensitive data like banking information or social security numbers? You may need to take more proactive steps and hire a third-party security testing company to make sure there is no potential for a breach. This will help you eliminate all the minor data architecture problems you may have. Besides, a cybersecurity certificate will help with building consumer trust. It’s possible to be both innovative and secure With the amount of data that companies gather on their customers, corresponding levels of risk are continually increasing. However, it’s possible to create something innovative that bears minimal threat to your customers’ security. Follow these tips, and you will be able to keep your customers’ data safe. Connie Benton is a content writer who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. With an emphasis on organic traffic and conversion, she takes big ideas and turns them into highly practical content that keeps readers hooked.
If your fitness business has failed to generate sufficient revenue during government-mandated closures, you’re not alone. Times have been tough — even heartbreaking — for the fitness industry during the pandemic. Gold’s Gym is permanently shutting down more than 30 locations and other franchises and independent gyms are struggling to bear the weight of economic uncertainty. But with most states re-opening local economies, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Some members will return enthusiastically while others may be tentative, so a hybrid of in-person and virtual services may be necessary. At this point, the best-case scenario for gyms and other fitness businesses is to do one or more of the following: Retain current members Attract new members Jumpstart new sources of revenue Consider the following adaptation ideas that gyms across the country have utilized to stay in shape financially, to stay current with clients for a future return, or both. 1. Continue classes virtually It’s obvious that the use of video conferencing platforms has skyrocketed during the pandemic. But to what extent has the fitness industry made this pivot? Dacast, an online video platform that allows businesses to broadcast and host video content, experienced a 2,850 percent increase in fitness clients' subscriptions between the end of February to the end of April 2020. According to COO Greg Ellis, usage climbed from about 400GB per month to 115,000GB per month during the same time period. It’s clear that virtual fitness is exploding and may not disappear post-pandemic. Ellis expects that studios and trainers will continue and expand their online offerings post-lockdown as they are more convenient for the students and instructors with less required travel time and opportunity for missed classes. “The expanded reach and revenue potential for the instructors and studios should also make virtual a supplement to in-person classes and not something that is abandoned lightly,” Ellis says. The exception to this is the personal fitness trainer category, as much of the appeal for a personal trainer is the in-person interaction and also because home access to specialized equipment is limited. So how exactly are gyms operating with a virtual model? Pay-per-class When you charge per class, clients can pick and choose their favorites without committing to a certain number of classes in order to get their money’s worth. There is less risk on the part of the client. That’s what San Francisco-based MX3 Fitness is doing with their classes. MX3 Fitness includes two personal training gyms and one yoga studio. After the shelter in place order was announced, they were able to take their entire business online in less than 48 hours, partly thanks to the fact that founder Glenn Shope was a computer programmer in a former life. MX3 Fitness offers a complimentary free class, then subsequent classes start at $8 per class. Virtual tip jar Unfortunately, MX3’s individual trainers and yogis lost up to 80 percent of their business during the pandemic, so the company added a virtual tip jar on the website for clients to contribute a little extra where possible to help keep them afloat. Co-owner Dave Karraker explains, “This was a biggie. In just a month, they received an amazing 150 tips” as a token of generosity and appreciation from class attendees. Monthly membership Brittney Hiller, founder and CEO of brick and mortar yoga studio and spa Effervescence Yoga Spa, was more prepared than most for a digital pivot. “Due to my original creation of my Virtual YogaSpa for members who travel and as a preparation for our frequent hurricane evacuations, I was ready to shift online quickly to help support my members during this time,” says Hiller. In addition to individual class payments, Hiller offers a monthly, no-contract membership in which members have access to unlimited virtual live yoga classes as well as a wellness resource library that includes meditations, pre-recorded yoga classes, and self-care and wellness-inspired workshops. “Elite” annual memberships are also available. Hiller has actually seen a rise in yoga attendance since moving to all-virtual services compared to when the studio was physically open. “I believe this is due to the ease of turning on the computer and clicking on a link to enjoy an hour of yoga together,” she explains. “I plan to continue this online option even beyond our physical reopening process” Pay-what-you-can Recognizing that members may also be experiencing financial hardship, you may implement a temporary pay-what-you-can policy in which you forego set charges. Another factor is your streaming platform of choice: if you’re streaming via Facebook Live on your public account, for example, there’s no access barrier for anyone to participate. MX3 Fitness added a pay-what-you-can community yoga class to their schedule. Karraker explains, “We are a ‘community’ gym, so it really felt good to give back, even when our own organization is struggling.” Even though the pandemic has created a huge challenge for the business, Karraker says, “We are seeing some successes, and the gratitude from the community has been nothing short of inspiring.” Keep in mind that even if your virtual classes are not generating significant revenue in the short-term, client loyalty may pay off in the long run. Define your boundaries and give options Tweaking your membership payment structure can definitely be tricky right now. On one hand, you want to assuage fears and appease clients, who may also be struggling. But on the other hand, you may not be willing or able to fully refund memberships when you’re strapped for cash. Decide which membership updates you feel okay about, then give gym-goers a couple of options to choose from, perhaps including the following: Extend membership period Issue a refund for the closed time period Offer a discount for upcoming months Initiate a new promotion for a monthly or yearly membership or punch pass Give gym perks and privileges, such as extended facility hours, to existing members to encourage retention 2. Focus on social media engagement and communication Some gym owners have used the time in social isolation to work on increasing their follower base on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook. Some of these followers may become paying members at some point for your future on-site, virtual, or hybrid fitness model. Consider incorporating giveaways for swag or temporary memberships and work with influencers to promote your products or services. Personal trainer, coach, and sports performance specialist Tom Green operates Greenspeed Training in San Diego. He’s been running contests and giveaways on his social media accounts to keep clients engaged, and he’s seen an increase in followers which will hopefully translate to new business. Green has also kept in personal contact with clients when they haven’t been able to work out together, which is a necessary practice for any fitness business. Clients need to know what you’re offering in order to participate, whether that’s virtual classes, motivation via text messages or phone calls, or content emphasizing the importance of physical fitness and nutrition. 3. Find a way to give back To clients As mentioned, offering free or pay-what-you-can fitness classes is one way to give back. A willingness to make things fun — “just because” — is also a gift to clients. Hollywood physique expert Eric the Trainer is holding free live group Zoom classes a couple of times a day Monday through Saturday and has been mixing things up with celebrity performances and fun themes like Broadway (featuring “Hamilton” cast members), Star Wars (featuring actor Matt Lanter, Anakin Skywalker in “Clone Wars”), Harry Potter, and zoo animals (featuring judges from the Los Angeles Zoo). For Mother’s Day, Eric created a sing-along concert to benefit Feeding America with musical performances by Nickelback, Echosmith, Toto, and Air Supply. To service professionals Eric is also working with nutrition clients to donate healthy meals to local hospital frontline workers. MX3 Fitness added a free weekly yoga class for service industry employees. Verona Yoga teamed up with another yoga studio to offer a donation-based, all-levels Vinyasa class aimed to help provide meals to healthcare workers at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. The best part? The food is to be purchased from Fairfield restaurant Zest, supporting a local eatery during the pandemic as well. 4. Present outdoor exercise options With the temperature warming up in many parts of the country and balmy weather year-round in other areas, moving your gym activities outside can assuage some fears. Pam Waddick, owner of gym Hiit56 in Boca Raton, Florida, came up with an idea called “Park ‘n Sweat.” Up to six gym members at a time could park in alternate parking spots with sanitized gear ready to go in the spaces between each set of cars and a socially distanced trainer leading the group. 5. Expand your service offerings MX3’s Karraker noticed early on in the lockdown that many members were setting up family yoga meetups during their Zoom classes. “This was awesome to see families across the country connect,” says Karraker. “And it made us aware that we now had a very wide age range participating, with kids as young as 12 and grandparents as old as 83.” To ensure all attendees felt engaged, the gym added chair yoga for seniors to be inclusive of more ability levels. You might expand your studio’s offerings to include one or more of the following: 1-on-1 personal training Kid-specific fitness classes Nutrition consulting Mindfulness and meditation Yoga Mental health services On a completely non-fitness related note, you may want to rent out your gym as a co-working space for individuals or businesses looking for office space during the hours that members aren’t using it. Co-working facilitating platform DropDesk partners with businesses during their closed or unused hours, converting them into part-time coworking spaces. Founder Graham Back explains that his platform fosters a sense of community and, for some businesses, has offered their only recurring revenue model during difficult times. 6. Expand your product offerings If your gym sells swag like clothing or water bottles, have a sale to generate some revenue and clear out old inventory. Consider creating an online course or at-home fitness guide for purchase. Rent out equipment such as the following: Kettlebells Dumbbells Yoga mats Jump ropes Medicine bells Wearable fitness trackers Orthopedic clinical specialist Lawrence Kim owns Edge Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, working extensively with fitness-based professionals and fitness clients. Kim has implemented remote monitoring via the WHOOP app for elite athletes to add value to his in-person services, incorporate an additional revenue stream, and open up to a broader audience not limited to geography. 7. Initiate an at-home fitness challenge Organize a remote challenge for members to do as they continue or re-start healthy habits at home. This could look like a weight bet, a daily habit checklist, or a bucket list of local hiking trails. There are a few ways to motivate and monetize: charge a flat participation fee, have everyone contribute to a pot, some of which returns to the winner(s) of the challenge, or charge a larger amount of money that will be refunded only upon successful completion of the challenge. You may want to create a training plan for a virtual race or an in-person race at a future date. Take donations for participation in the fun run or a longer-distance race and make it fun by including medals, t-shirts, or prizes. 8. Make cleanliness a priority and communicate that to members There are different approaches you can take with this, but for optimal cleanliness, a combination of all three may be necessary: Emphasize personal responsibility by depending on gym members to sanitize equipment after use Increase frequency and coverage of staff sanitizing procedures Hire out regular cleaning services Boutique fitness brand TruFusion has been working with health professionals, including a Chief of Medicine, to ensure that cleaning protocols and the studio design and layout will meet high standards of cleanliness. From power washers built into showers to updating air ducts, the company is considering long-term changes and solutions. 9. Improve spacing and planning with time slots To make it easier to give members space as they work out, control the number of guests via time slot signups. Personal trainer Chad Turner is impressed that VASA is doing this and hopes to see it continue. “I like that this method controls the number of people that can come in at one time and customers can schedule their workouts,” Turner explains. “I’d love to see this service at other gyms become the norm even when the quarantine is over. I hate showing up to the gym and seeing it really crowded.” 10. Apply for a relief loan, grant, or business loan Some gym owners have been able to maintain payroll thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program or other federal and state relief programs. And even during a global economic downturn, traditional Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and other small business loans may be viable options for your business. Here’s what reviewers had to say about working with Lendio and VIP Capital Funding earlier this year: Lendio Customer Review: Colton, Gym Owner "We weren't sure about using them at first but we are glad we did. Everything was an easy process from start to finish and they hooked us up with the best possible loan for our situation all while explaining each one of our options." VIP Capital Funding Customer Review: Phil from Houston, TX "I had 2 funding positions at the time but needed more capital to help the growth for my fitness center. Although we couldn’t consolidate at the time they helped me with a long term plan by strengthening the revenue of my business with a 3rd position and then helping me get funded with a term loan later in the year." What’s next for the fitness industry? Americans’ physical activity declined by about 50 percent from March 1 to April 6 according to data from a 150,000+ person fitness tracking cohort. With the reopening of fitness studios, it’s assumed that physical activity will go up. But only time will tell if and how gyms will adapt to the point of recovery after a hiatus. One popular prediction is the hybridization of in-person and virtual fitness. Tara Roscioli, co-owner of New Jersey-based Align Wellness Studio, explains that within two days of closing their doors in March, they launched an entirely new business model online including multiple Livestream Pilates, Barre, Sculpt, and Suspension classes; an extensive and growing library of on-line Pilates and fitness videos for rent; a monthly subscription service; and virtual training sessions for individuals and small groups. “The great part about this pivot is that it has allowed us to tap into clients who otherwise were unable to make our classes,” Roscioli explains. “So rather than going back to regularly scheduled programming once the ban has been lifted, we will continue to offer live-streams of most, of not all, of our classes.” For gyms that need assistance making this pivot, third-party resources are available. Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Health Partners (VHP), explains that her virtual platform helps gyms and fitness studios navigate the new normal of COVID-19, streamlining the home workout process and getting fitness studios back in business. “VHP gives gyms a way to extend services to members who feel safer working out from home or who just can’t fit into the likely now-limited class capacity,” Cohen explains. “This virtual system fills in the gaps that will be left by new regulations that will control how these businesses will reopen.” The online portal includes capabilities like granting members access to exclusive branded classes, workouts, nutrition and training tips, progress trackers, accountability groups, and 24/7 access to fitness experts.
Guest Post by Vincent Sevilla Few anticipated this global pandemic to affect our modern world at such scale. No fewer than 212 countries have been affected. Now, thousands of people are stuck at home, fearing the virus, with almost all schools closed, and countless businesses halting their operations. COVID-19 has affected businesses in many ways. As entire cities and countries impose strict rules on quarantine and social distancing, many companies had to close down temporarily, while some operate with limited capacity and staff. Shipping and deliveries are paused or delayed and goods are stranded in warehouses or ports, resulting in order cancellations and loss of customer confidence. Travel, hospitality, and food service industries are also impacted in an unprecedented way. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits as most small businesses are left with no choice but to lay off some of their employees or even shut down. Not all businesses have enough cash reserves to withstand this crisis, after all. As a business owner, it’s understandable that you are worried. However, you should also know that it’s not a hopeless situation. There are a number of things that you can do to not only keep your business afloat during this pandemic, but to make it thrive even. 1. Care about self-care You may not be able to control what’s going on around the world but there are things that you have control over, like your physical and mental health. By taking care of yourself and working on having a clearer mind, you’ll be able to come up with creative solutions for what your business is going through right now. 2. Consider paid ads (they're really cheap right now!) There is a substantial decrease in the cost per click as there aren’t many small businesses placing ads. Because ad networks earn by using an auction system and there isn’t much competition right now, ads are cheaper. As a result, return on investment of paid ads increases during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you haven’t had any paid ads yet, now is the time to give it some thought. 3. Let your metrics guide you Entrepreneurs are often sp busy taking care of what’s currently going on in their small businesses that they hardly find time to check their metrics. Even if checking your metrics is part of your daily routine, you might not have been able to take a really good look at the whole picture. But now that things have slowed down, you have the opportunity to make monthly comparisons to see what the trends are and how you can improve conversion rates, click-through rates, customer retention rates, and ultimately, your sales revenue. 4. Transform yourself into a project manager Before the pandemic changed the way you needed to run your business, you were probably used to addressing tasks at work as they come. While this may work for you, you might also want to reassess the way you do things and approach tasks in a more organized way. You can make a task list based on level of importance and come up with detailed plans that include time frames for each task that you aim to accomplish while working from home. Don’t forget to keep track of your progress so you’ll always know where you are. 5. Provide educational resources Depending on your industry, you might want to consider offering some educational training courses. You can approach this in two ways. You can sell your own courses at a discounted price to people who are looking for ways to improve specific skills or to prepare for a new job. With workers losing jobs everywhere, people are seeking new opportunities. You can help them with that. You might also want to provide your employees with relevant educational-based training so their work performance could be improved. This could help improve their chances at getting promoted in the future. 6. Provide special promos and offers You want to get more sales but at the same time you want to help your customers who are also affected by this pandemic. By offering your products at discounted prices, or perks like free shipping, free access to otherwise premium services, not only will you be making sure that your customers will continue to support your business but that you are also showing them that you care about them. 7. Master search engine optimization (SEO) Professionals who offer SEO services for small businesses can really help your brand become more visible online. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn what you need to know about SEO. It wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself on SEO strategies, know where most of your traffic comes from, what platforms perform well for you, and what you can do to make sure you are ahead in the game. 8. Up your social media game Given the situation right now, you can expect that more people are spending hours of their time on social media. Therefore, that’s where you should be, too! Reach as many potential customers as you can via the most popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but don’t miss out on what platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube can bring. Stay tuned to what your target market is paying attention to right now and what their needs are. Then aim to meet those needs. Don’t just focus on posting more frequently but also on posting what’s relevant to your audience. Stay true to your brand and take the opportunity to show everyone what your company is really about. While making purchases might not be at the top of their priority list right now, by being visible and by reaching out to your audience, you can be sure that you will be on their mind when they do decide to make a purchase. 9. Take your productivity to a new level You might not be used to working from home and having your team working remotely, too. It could be challenging to adapt to this new work environment but thankfully you are living in a time when there is an abundance of helpful tools that you can use to make sure you and your staff stay productive. Some of these tools include Slack, Trello, Timeclick, Evernote, and Google Drive, among others. Look at your current process and identify areas that can be improved by using these tools. Of course, you also need to condition yourself and have a positive mindset. Be disciplined. If you need to work certain hours, focus on just work during that period and don’t be distracted. Commit to your goals and don’t forget to reward yourself when you finish your tasks. 10. Try artisanal marketing Artisanal marketing means adding that personal touch to your marketing approach. You might wonder how you can do that with digital marketing, right? For one, stop using stock photos for your blogs. Find that voice that really represents your brand and use it consistently. Don’t rely on bots when it comes to communicating with your customers and make sure contact is made personal. By doing these things, your customers will see how invested you are in your brand and how much you value your customers, too. 11. Strengthen your content marketing plan Many businesses still take content marketing lightly — just writing and posting articles on topics that they deem interesting or what they believe their audience would like. But should that be the extent of your content marketing? Your answer should be “no.” You should have a solid content marketing campaign plan in place. Have specific goals for the next three to six months. Know your audience and what keywords they search for so you’ll know what information you need to provide them. Design your content wisely as design elements play a big role in a content’s readability and shareability. Lastly, implement a strict schedule for your content creation and stick to it. When you strengthen your content marketing, you’ll be able to establish yourself as an authority in your industry, reach more people, and get more leads. 12. Breathe new life into your landing pages Your landing pages play a big role in turning web traffic into leads and even loyal customers. So if you haven’t been paying attention to your website’s landing pages, it’s time to breathe new life into them. How do you do that? Check if your landing pages are still enticing and relevant. Chances are, the content and design need an update. Make sure that your landing page’s voice and mood is consistent with the ad that redirected them to that page, the entire website, and the brand itself. Don’t try to add too much to your landing page or try to incorporate multiple conversion points that will appear too pushy or confusing to your audience. You can get through this The world is experiencing not only a health crisis but an economic one as well. While it’s true that the need for social distancing can affect your business greatly, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Take this opportunity to clear your mind, take creative steps, and make use of all the resources available to you, and build up your online marketing strategy to ensure that you and your business will get through this pandemic even stronger than before. Vincent Sevilla is a professional web designer and inbound strategist for HostingFacts. His goal? To innovate ideas, create good art, and to travel to all the best places in the Philippines. You can follow him on Twitter.
Guest Post by Lori Wade If you are in a place where you can start to think about taking your business global, you should congratulate yourself and your team. You must have worked very hard to grow your business to become strong enough to reach this point. That said, when it comes to actually following through and taking your business global, you don’t want to congratulate yourselves too early. Getting your product or business trademarked in the United States can be a complex process on its own, but successfully extending and registering that trademark internationally is bound to be a whole new challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be an impossible one. By following these guidelines, you can take your trademark and business global in a big way. 1. Register sooner rather than later One of the most important things to recognize when it comes to registering a trademark internationally is that it is better to get started on the process sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more chance your application could run into problems. For one thing, the more time passes, the greater the chance of someone else trying to copy your idea. Until you have trademark protection, your brand can be a “sitting duck” internationally. While this won’t really matter if you are mostly a localized brand operating entirely within your country, or intend to remain a small business, the sooner and faster you grow, the more pressing the need to trademark your company internationally becomes. Then, there is the prospect of brand squatting. This refers to the process where third parties register a trademark you might want or need first with the sole intention of forcing you to settle with them for the rights to the name or trademarked material in their country. Consider the curious case of Starbucks brand squatting in Russia over a decade ago. When the coffee giant tried to expand their brand into Russia, they found that someone else had already trademarked the name there, with the sole intent of forcing Starbucks to pay them for the rights to the name. These are obviously devious business practices, and, even worse, they’re utterly dishonest bad faith attempts to wring money out of companies while providing nothing in return. That said, going international often means working in countries where trademark and business law isn’t always on the up and up. Just think of all the off-brand trademark forgeries in China. On the other hand, Russia and China represent huge markets, so for big brands going international, they’re worth the risk. If you’re going to play ball there, you’ll have to play by their rules. The sooner you become savvy to those rules, and the faster you act on them, the better chance you have at saving yourself a massive headache. 2. Register in your home market first Before you do any of that, however, you’ll want to register your trademark in your own market. If you operate in the United States, that means going through the USPTO system. If you operate in the EU, that means going through their EU Intellectual Property Office. 3. Register with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) The closest thing to an international body overseeing international trademarks is the World Intellectual Property Organization. They operate according to what is referred to as the Madrid System. One hundred and eighteen countries are signatories to WIPO, which covers international copyright law between its signatory parties. You can choose to have your trademark protected in specific countries or all 118 states. As with any trademark process, you will need to fill out an application and pay fees to obtain and maintain your copyright. When doing so, you will need to make sure that you are filing as a citizen, or as someone legally recognized as being able to do business in the state from which you are filing. This can be a complex process, and if you are not a native or naturalized citizen of the country in which you are filing, you may need to designate another party in that country to act on your behalf. 4. Consider these important factors Here are some of the most common international trademark factors to consider when filing: Cost-benefit analysis — Filing for a trademark can be a costly process both time and money-wise, so ask yourself: Is it worth registering a trademark in all countries you’re targeting? If you are not going to get a sizable return on your investment, the answer may be no. However, if it’s a big market or one in which your company is looking to establish itself, the answer is likely yes. Overseas operations —For WIPO purposes, you’ll want to note any overseas distributors, manufacturers, partnerships, or other business associations. If you need help filing in a foreign country, these other parties, such as content writing companies like Icopify, can sometimes be helpful. Future plans — Make sure you know where and when you plan to expand before seeking international trademark protection. Defensive filings. —To guard against things such as the Russia/Starbucks case or Chinese forgeries, consider preemptive defensive filings in large markets where you plan to expand. 5. Hire an international trademarking legal expert Last, but not least, you’ll want to hire an international trademark legal expert to handle the process. International trademark law is notoriously tricky and marked by overlapping standards, treaties, exceptions, and laws. Trying to navigate the process yourself will be difficult, and practically impossible while you devote most of your time to running a business. Turn to a full-time international trademarking expert instead, and make sure they are qualified to work on trademark law in the countries in which you plan to expand. By following these protocols, you can take your trademarked brand global in a big way. Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. A content writer who has experience in small editions, Lori is now engaged in news and conceptual articles on business topics. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Guest Post by Michael Deane COVID-19 has caught many business owners unprepared. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable in this crisis as most are not as well established and might have already been struggling prior to the pandemic. The present circumstances demand that it's time to develop a new strategy, a new financial plan that will help you get back on your feet. If you’re in a dilemma as to what to do to help your business recover, here are a few guidelines for your small business financial planning amidst COVID-19. Perform a financial health check The first step of financial planning for small businesses is to figure out what you're up against financially. An assessment is needed to see the status of your business and to identify your next step according to the results. Assessing your current situation is essential for developing a financial plan. This includes analyzing your cash flow and whether you’re able to carry on with your business in the next 6–12 months. Consider the following questions: What is your current position? Do you have enough funds to continue? For how long? Based on your cash flow assessment, you will have clear insight into your financial situation, and you’ll be able to make a decision: continue with your business or put a halt on some or all of your operations. If your cash flow analysis clearly shows that you can’t operate for the next six months with your existing assets and revenue as is, you can consider shutting down some of your operations or making the difficult decision to let some of your employees go. Recreate your budget Using the results of your previous cash flow analysis, start working on a new budget to keep your small business alive. Your previous budget from before the pandemic is no longer relevant because circumstances have changed drastically. In times of global crisis, we must adjust our spending. More importantly, we must learn from this pandemic and prepare for similar future events. While crafting your budget, keep in mind all the issues (however improbable they sound) that might affect your business. The reason why many small businesses have struggled amid the coronavirus is the reality that they did not have an emergency fund that would keep them going until things would go back to normal. If at all possible, consult a financial expert to help you with your cash flow assessment and budgeting, including a plan to save for future crises. Cut unnecessary spending Spending money on unnecessary things during regular times is hurting your business, but doing so during the COVID-19 crisis can easily ruin you. If you’re struggling to keep your business alive, you need to cut all the unnecessary costs such as software subscription, advertising, and so on. Cut all the things that are not absolutely essential at the moment. Another way to cut spending is to reduce your working hours. Consider canceling orders if the contracts allow it or at least delay them. Reach out to your debtors if you have any and see if you can get some payments. Given the circumstances, your debtors are probably in a similar situation as you are so you a little understanding is necessary. However, you can discuss the possibility of smaller, periodic payments at least. If you have to let employees go, consider automating tasks using AI-powered solutions. AI technology does not only cost less than a full-time employee but can significantly boost customer service experience. These bots can work 24/7 either independently or in collaboration with human agents. Apply for government assistance Global leaders around the world are trying to help businesses recover from COVID-19 by releasing relief and stimulus packages for entrepreneurs. These packages include help for businesses that keep their current staff and/or hire new employees. Examine your eligibility for government assistance and make sure to apply on time. This financial aid from the government can ensure the survival of your small business. You could keep your staff and continue to operate without shutting down any segments of your business. Read more: Paycheck Protection Program 101: How to Get a Business Loan under the CARES Act Another option is to seek investors that could provide a much-needed financial injection. Contact your bank Contact your bank and discuss the ways your bank can help you overcome the hardships of this pandemic. This includes getting payment extensions on mortgages and loans, seeking a refund for any unused premium policies, etc. Contact your landlord If you had to shut down your business temporarily, you’re probably in no situation to continue paying your lease, at least not the full amount. The best thing you can do is reach out to your landlord and consider negotiating a new arrangement. Given the global situation, there is a high probability your landlord will understand your position and reduce your rent since you’re not using the premises. Additionally, various cities have implemented or are considering implementing moratoriums on evictions from both commercial and residential properties. Stay up to date Staying informed is crucial during this crisis. Follow the important information on COVID-19 released by the government and trusted sources that may affect your small business. Governments are also working out ways to help small businesses, and it is important to stay up to date with the changes so you don't miss any opportunities for relief via special loans or grants. COVID-19 has disrupted the entire world, and we can expect the consequences to be felt in the next six months or longer. How we prepare for this upcoming period is crucial. Read more: Consider These 10 Adjustments Before Making Payroll Cuts Michael Deane has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael's work at Qeedle.
Note: The Paycheck Protection Program closed August 8, 2020. As is the case with nearly all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, new updates and decisions are being made every day. But amid many unknowns, small business owners can count on some relief starting Friday, April 3 thanks to the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed into law on March 27. The aid package includes a $349 billion economic relief program through the Small Business Administration (SBA) called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). When the initial aid ran out, additional funding was allocated to the PPP and the program is continuing to accept applications until June 30, 2020. Beyond the Paycheck Protection Program, additional assistance is available to small business owners and individuals via an Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan of up to $2 million with a $10,000 advance available. In addition, through its Debt Relief program, the SBA will pay the principal and interest of current 7(a) loans for a period of six months and the principal and interest of new 7(a) loans issued prior to September 27, 2020. As a small business owner, here's what you need to know about Paycheck Protection loans. What is the purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program? The PPP was designed to support job retention by financially incentivizing business owners to keep employees on the payroll. How does it differ from the SBA's existing loan programs? The SBA ordinarily provides financial assistance to small businesses primarily through its 7(a) lending program. The PPP is a new program under 7(a) that significantly differs from the other lending programs. Paycheck Protection loans are granted the following unique allowances: Short-term forbearance 100 percent guaranteed Collateral and personal guarantee requirements are waived No government or lender fees Possibility of loan forgiveness What if my business has a different SBA loan? If your business is paying off a different SBA disaster loan, the due date for that loan has been deferred through December 31, 2020. Businesses with pending SBA disaster loans can also get a Paycheck Protection loan as long as the loans are being used for different things. What businesses are eligible? Any business with fewer than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals) for which "current economic uncertainty makes the loan necessary to support your ongoing operations" is eligible for a loan, according to the Treasury Department's PPP fact sheet. Private non-profit organizations and 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19 are also eligible. Your company must have already been in business as of February 15 to qualify. What size loan can my business get? A business's maximum loan amount is determined by eight weeks of prior average payroll costs plus an additional 25 percent, or 2.5 times your total payroll expenses for the loan period, up to $10 million. A single business can only apply for one Paycheck Protection loan. What expenses does the loan cover? A Paycheck Protection loan covers the following: Salary wages, commissions, and tips capped at $100,000 per employee Employee benefits including vacation, parental leave, medical leave, and sick leave Mortgage interest, rent, and utilities incurred or in force before February 15, 2020 In some cases, interest on other debts What is the interest rate for loans under the program? The interest rate has been set at 1 percent. That number may rise but the interest rate has been capped at 4 percent. What is the timeline for relief and repayment? The loan provides economic relief for costs incurred from February 15 to December 31, 2020. Loan payments are deferred for six months and have a maturity of five years. In other words, the first payment is due after six months of the loan origination date and the full loan is due after five years. Is there loan forgiveness? There is a financial incentive to maintain your workforce. The SBA will forgive loans for the first 24 weeks if all employees are kept on the payroll and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The amount of loan forgiveness includes payroll costs for employees below $100,000 in annual income. Forgiveness is reduced if the workforce or wages are reduced, but you can possibly preserve some of your loan guarantee by rehiring employees you've already laid off in response to COVID-19-related economic uncertainty. There is a maximum 10-year maturity for loan forgiveness. How are lenders compensated? Lenders participating in the PPP are given the following incentives by the SBA: Favorable regulatory treatment Reimbursement for processing fees based on the disbursed loan amount 5 percent for loans up to $350,000 3 percent for loans greater than $350,000 and less than $2 million 1 percent for loans of $2 million or more PPP loans on a lender's balance sheet receive 0 percent risk weight Where can I find and select an approved lender? Lenders are mobilizing to prepare for the onslaught of loan applications to answer the greater demand for business loans during this time. The SBA has approved over 1,800 lenders in its network which includes any participating SBA 7(a) lender, federally insured credit union or depository institution, and Farm Credit System. Best Company's mission is to help consumers find trustworthy companies that deserve their business. If you don't already have a lending institution or are looking to make a change, we encourage you to consider reviews-based rankings as you shop for a lender for your Paycheck Protection loan. The current top-ranked business loans companies are as follows: Lendio Headway Capital (temporarily not accepting new applicants) Kabbage View the complete list of best business loan lenders here. What do I need to apply? Just as you would generally for business loan preparation, you need to gather documentation. Fortunately, a loan under the PPP does not require a separate review by the SBA so your eligibility will be determined by the funding institution via guidelines from the SBA. Presumably, this will greatly shorten the approval period so you can get funds soon after applying for the loan. The U.S. Treasury Department's CARES Act resource page has a sample application you can download as a reference, though you'll apply for the loan through your chosen lending institution. Prepare documentation of the following information, and you're ready to apply online through your lender: Business TIN number Average monthly payroll Expected payroll costs from February 15–December 31 Number of jobs supported by your company Employee headcount over time A list of all owners holding at least a 20 percent stake in the business and affirm they are not party to federal crimes