The COVID-19 pandemic is making business hard for everyone, especially small businesses. Small AV integrators aren’t immune, as economic declines are forcing organizations to retool their budgets and cancel spending for technology installations like audiovisual and IT projects.
However, small integrators can take several steps to bolster the financial health of the company and their employees, like applying for small business assistance from the U.S. government to keep them on payroll and offering personal assistance to employees in need.
Yes, you can get emergency SBA loans
The U.S. government has now approved several rounds of emergency funding for small businesses, and those programs have been extremely popular.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – which offers loans to businesses to help retain employees – has been extremely popular. So much so that the first round of funding ran out of money mid April. Last week, Congress approved another nearly $500 billion in coronavirus aid, including a $300 billion replenishment of the PPP.
Applications for the program are again open, so if you didn’t get funding the first time, go to the SBA’s website to learn how to apply.
According to Scott Wright, president and CEO of Wisconsin-based Lifeline Audio Video Technologies, securing that funding wasn’t very difficult.
“it was a surprisingly easy process,” Wright said.
Within a few days of applying for the Paycheck Protection Program funding, Wright and his company were approved. All it took was sending basic information on the company and its employees, including payroll, utilities, insurance and 401K contributions.
About a week after being approved, the money was in the company’s account, Wright said.
However, a $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan took a bit longer than expected to get to the company, but that funding was also received, Wright said.
Be early, persistent, and thorough
The early bird gets the worm, especially when there’s critical emergency funding that you need for your business on the line.
That’s what Wright found when he applied for the loan at his bank, with which the company has a good relationship in rural Wisconsin.
The process took some emailing and communicating back and forth, but Wright applied for the funding the first possible day he could and kept following up with his bankers.
“I’m a pretty big account for my banker, so I probably got pushed to the forefront but I think my persistence of getting involved early in processing, sending and email very early saying, ‘We want to apply what do we have to do?’” Wright says. “And, you know, following up on those emails a couple of times probably helped us get closer to the front of that line.”
According to Wright, he started the process by researching what information his bank would need via the SBA’s website and was asked to put that information in an Excel spreadsheet.
A few days later, the bank asked for some clarifications and further information.
“And that afternoon, I was approved,” says Wright.
Offer additional assistance to your employees
Aside from the Paycheck Protection Program to help keep his employees on the payroll, Wright said he has personally given no interest loans to employees in need.
Lifeline Audio Video Technologies has also helped pay for dinners and given gift cards to employees who might be struggling financially.
The company has had to furlough just a handful of employees, but they are well welcomed back next week, Wright says.
In March, when the U.S. and the rest of the world was just starting to realize the economic effects COVID-19 would soon bring, billionaire businessman Mark Cuban said it should be incumbent upon businesses to take care of their employees.
“How companies respond to that very question is going to define their brand for decades,” Cuban said in a CNBC segment.
According to Wright, that should be the main concern for businesses of any size.
“Our main concern is that our employees are taken care of, that it’s not a financial burden for them and that they know they can get through this stressful plan,” Wright says.