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Author: 
Ginger Watkins

Crisis Tool Kit for Your Business

This material is reproduced from Grow Great Falls, Montana Economic Development (with some local additions).

Five Ways to Control the Things You Can. Managing your cash is always important, but during a crisis, it's more than important - it's a necessity.  Here are 5 things you can do that may help with your cash management.

  1.  Expenses - time to reduce or remove.  Now is the time for you as a business owner to take a hard look at all of your expenses and decide what expenses are necessary, what expenses can be reduced, deferred, or cut altogether.
  2. Got debt? Ask your lending partners if interest only or deferred payments on outstanding debts is possible.
  3. Reduce your rent.  Ask your landlord if you can defer or reduce rent payments.
  4. Call your vendors and ask for longer payment terms.  (Consider #2, #3, and #4 under the heading "It Never Hurts to Ask")
  5. If possible, drawdown available lines of credit and place the funds in interest-bearing accounts.
  6. Become a cash flow superstar.  Do monthly, weekly or daily statements of cash flow.  A laser-sharp focus on where each of your dollars comes in and goes out will help you keep as strong of cash position as possible.  Here is an easy to use Google Sheet cashflow template - you can use this template to create monthly, weekly and daily cash flow statements. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xkN34aVU4fqp2imqLBdMbuBnEdUAqQAchMifSRrkego/template/preview?usp=drive_web 

Five Alternatives to Bring in Cash - Now is a good time to evaluate additional revenue streams to generate cash.

  1.  Take a look at existing company assets - both fixed and human.  Evaluate if slight pivots could be made to create a new form of income.
    1.  If you are a restaurant, could you start doing delivery?
      1. How would that work?
      2. Should you charge for delivery?
    2. If you have a drive-thru -- could you offer to bring customer's orders out to the car – ala – car hop style?
  2. Leverage technology.
    1. If you are a restaurant or retailer, look at online ordering options with pickup or local delivery.  
    2. If you are a retailer consider live facebook buying.  Check out The BlingBox's Facebook sales on Comment Sold.
    3. If you are an accountant, attorney or financial advisor check out one of the many free or low-cost video conferencing options which allow easy "face to face" communication with clients.
      1. Zoom offers unlimited on one video conferencing for free for 2 or fewer users.  Paid accounts for 3 or more attendees are available. 
      2. Uber Conference gives you free 45-minute meetings for up to 10 participants. www.uberconference.com
      3. Other tech tools for video conferencing are Skype, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, Facebook Live.
  3. Got merchandise? Ask your customers to support you through this tough time by buying a hat, t-shirt, or some other option to be fulfilled at a later date.
  4. Send invoices digitally and allow your customers to pay without visiting your store or locations.  There are many low-cost online invoicing systems which allow you to send invoices and get paid online, such as:
    1. Wave Apps, https://www.waveapps.com/
    2. Invoicely, https://invoicely.com/
    3. and, of course, QuickBooks users know you can send an invoice electronically
  5. Offer discounts. The 2 - 10 Net 30 payment term would allow payment at a 2% discount if paid within 10 days, full payment due within the normal 30-day term...or whatever your receivable period normally is.

Five Marketing and Promotion Options During these crazy times being transparent and speaking to your customers is as important as ever.

  1. Communicate honestly. Speak to your customers directly through social media, direct marketing or direct mail.  Create daily points of contact and let them know what steps you are taking to keep your employees and customers safe.
  2. Call to action.  If you don't ask, you probably won't receive.  Ask customers to support your business.  Tell them how to best support you.
  3. Offer gift certificates as a way for patrons to support you now.  Let your customers know that they can purchase gift cards or gift certificates from you now for use at a later date.  You may want to consider offering discounted gift cards, for example, purchase a gift card with a $100 face value for $75.  If you have a website, consider adding an online store with digital gift certificates as a product.  If you can't use your website for this function check out Gift Up or Square.  Don't feel like going high tech?  The phone still works...just create a system to track payments and redemptions of gift certifications.
  4. Pre-payment.  Like the gift card model, the pre-payment of products and services will help you get cash in the door for fulfillment in the future.  But don't do this if you're not tracking your commitments. 
  5. Focus on your existing customers.  Acquiring a new customer is expensive, harder, and more time-consuming.  Update them on changes to your business affecting them.  Being proactive and having direct lines of communication with your existing customers will build and sustain long term customer loyalty.

These lists and tools are not magic bullets, but there may be one or two items that you can focus on.