Going Into the New Normal

Purple header image of the B2U Podcast, episode Mentorship and Paying it Forward with Stacy Cusio from the Pink Mentor Network

Today on B2U, we’re talking about COVID-19 and what the new normal looks like here in Charlotte. With us today is Robin McIntire from the Small Business and Technology Development Center and José D. Alvarez from Prospera.

To help navigate COVID-19, we’ve compiled a list of federal, state, and local resources to help your small business respond effectively to the crisis. Visit this link to get started. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Hey, there you are listening to the B2U Podcast, and I am your host, Vanessa Vaughn Mathews, the Founder, and Chief Resilience Officer of Asfalis Advisors. The B2U Podcast is brought to you by CBRbiz.com, a site connecting you with the resources you need to start and run a business in the Charlotte region. We’re bringing business resources directly to you. We discuss a wide range of topics like starting and growing a business, navigating government contracts, and how to set your business apart in and around Charlotte. We’re talking with small business experts to get exclusive advice on how to start and run a successful business.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Today on B2U we’re talking about COVID-19 and what the new normal looks like here in Charlotte. On March 17, Mecklenburg County entered a mandatory stay-at-home period, but many people and businesses started their social distancing voluntarily days before. All of us are watching the national news, but we wanted to take today to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting local businesses. What is the risk? What is the economic impact, and what does life in Charlotte look like after COVID-19? With us today is Robin McIntire from Small Business Technology Development Center and José D. Alvarez with Prospera.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Good morning. 

Robin McIntire Good morning. 

José Alvarez Good morning. Thank you for having us. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So, Robin, when I first moved to Charlotte, I stopped at the SBTDC and they helped me to get my company together with business plans and helping me to think through our process and our strategy. Can you tell our listeners what you do at the SBTDC? 

Robin McIntire Sure. So, the Small Business and Technology Development Center has been around for about thirty-five years in North Carolina and we provide one-on-one confidential business advising services for small businesses across the state. We have fifteen offices, and as I mentioned, it’s completely confidential. We help folks pretty much at all stages of their business planning, so they could be pre-venture or already in business and our mission is really to help their business do better. And the definition of doing better really varies with the business, of course, because everyone is unique. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Awesome. And José, what about you? What do you do with Prospera? 

José Alvarez So, Prospera is an organization that has been around for almost thirty years, specifically in North Carolina. We opened an office in Charlotte about four years ago, and it specializes in providing in culture, in language, business support, and consulting to Latino entrepreneurs who are either starting a business or trying to expand an existing one. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Awesome. Well, thank you. So, I just want to start with you guys personally. José, how are you personally adjusting to this environment? Like what’s that been like for you? I can tell you in my house, I’m a newlywed. I have a dog. And we do three things. We walk, we talk, and we cook. So, what’s that like for you? 

José Alvarez Let me tell you, our home is no different. I mean, it’s the same thing. We cook, we work, we walk as well. I’ve been asked that especially lately a lot because at first, it was interesting. I had to adjust to working from home all the time. But lately, I’ve been actually more effective because I am… I was just mentioning to Robin earlier today that I’m drawn to my station. Seven days a week or more. I work by home. I got an email. So, I just sit in the computer and respond that email. We actually activated our contingency plan within Prospera. This particular office has been working seven days a week. So, we’ve been helping a lot of Latino entrepreneurs; submitting their loan applications, putting together some documentation even on weekends. So, it’s been interesting. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Interesting is the keyword. 

Robin McIntire Or exhausting. 

Robin McIntire That’s another keyword. Just as José mentioned, there’s a lot of businesses in the region who need assistance and so we’re literally fielding thousands of calls across the state and helping a lot of people. So while the work is very rewarding there are a lot of businesses that are struggling and so as a business counselor, you have to be very careful to help them as much as you can but to also balance, you know, how much of that weight you’re taking on yourself. Because it can be very emotional when you have someone on the phone who are at their wit’s end and just distraught with the economic fallout. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews I would agree with that. So, hand sanitizer, masks, and stimulus funds are really not a strategy for managing COVID-19. I run a crisis management company called Asfalis Advisors and our approach is crisis management it’s 80% communications and 20% strategy. So today we’re going to have a discussion. We’ve got our coffee and we’re just going to hang out and we’re going to talk about some of the top questions that both Robin, José, and myself are hearing from business owners now. And more importantly, we’re going to talk a little bit about what’s next and how do we get over this hump that we’re in now. So, first question I’ll ask you guys. Right?  I’ve heard so many questions about funding, about where to get it. How do you get access to it? So, can you help us figure out what these different types of assistance programs look like. We’re getting insights that it’s confusing for people to hear, especially José if you have a Spanish speaking audience right?. So, whether it’s federal, state, local, how do you navigate all of these different programs that we have going on, and then especially if English is not your first language. 

José Alvarez Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you for mentioning that Vanessa because with our particular audience, with our end-user, it is extremely confusing. 

Remember, we’re helping these Latino immigrants navigate, first of all, how to start a business here. So, the handicap that they have is not only the many things that entrepreneurs have but also language and culture. So that is one just from the get-go that’s an issue that they’re facing now. This crisis hits they’re trying to figure out what’s going on and what are the different sources. So, the way we are educating our audiences. You need to understand first, you need to assess where you are right now and that may include how much you think you may need. You know, let’s put together these different pieces of paperwork that you need to have profit and loss statement, balance sheet, etc, etc. explaining to them what that is because a lot of them are micro-businesses who don’t have that ready. So, after we go through that, then we explain to them, “OK, this is how funding works in the U.S..” 

So you have federal level, state level, you have county and then you have the city, then you have foundations, you have nonprofits, and then you have these different things. This is what a business load is, this is what a micro-loan is, this is what a grant is. So, after we explain all of that, then we do it again, assess where the business is and then we help them figure out which one is the best fit. We have to translate a lot of this information. So, it’s challenging definitely. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews What other segments of international businesses may you be supporting? I mean, I don’t know if they exist or not, you know, with the SBTDC, but I imagine Spanish speaking is not the only language that we’re working with, right? 

Robin McIntire As far as international business development, we do have counselors that specialize in that area and have support other languages as well. They are mainly helping folks who have international sales, which at the present time, which may have been interrupted to the restrictions. And so, they’re really focused on keeping those businesses going. Tp be honest, they need help with the same things as the domestic businesses as well. The first thing I would tell people is to reach out to the business resources that we have in Charlotte. We’re so lucky…business owners are lucky to have so many resources at the ready to help them. So that really is the first place to go is…is try to reach out and get some assistance. You know, it’s available to small businesses in the area. They’re paying for it with their tax dollars. They need to take advantage of that. So that’s really the first thing that I would be telling folks is, you know, to try to get some expertise, some assistance, some guidance from either from the service providers or even companies like yours. RIght?  So, reach out to people, try to get some assistance in sifting through and interpreting, not just the language interpreting, but just interpreting the rules. It’s hard even when English is your first language to understand some of these very complicated requirements around these funding programs. So that would be the first place that I would start would be to, you know, to get help. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Every year the Small Business Center at Central Piedmont helps thousands of entrepreneurs learn, launch, connect, and grow by giving them the skills they need to succeed. Central Piedmont Small Business Center supports small businesses with webinars, seminars, and one-on-one counseling. If you are seeking to launch a startup or scale an existing venture, Central Piedmont Small Business Center can provide step-by-step assistance to help you achieve your business goals. If you want to learn more about Central Piedmont Small Business Center, head over to CBRbiz.com.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So the Paycheck Protection Loan. So we applied for that loan the first day that it came out, we were approved, and we were funded and they’ve already applied that 1% interest. 

José Alvarez Wow.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So question for you, Robin, can we still apply and how? If you’ve already applied how do you find out the status? And do you have to pay it back? 

Robin McIntire So this is one of those, “it depends” kind of answers and it just goes back to what I just said, “you’ve got to read the fine print.” So, the Paycheck Protection Program is available through your individual bank. Right? So, at this point in time, though, there’s been more money put into it at the federal level; some banks are no longer taking applications. So, can you still apply? Maybe not with your regular banker, but there are a number of online banks that are still taking applications for it. So as of Wednesday, the SBA reported that 90 billion of that second appropriation has already been approved, so we really don’t expect that money to last very long. So, my advice would be to folks who are who haven’t applied for that yet, that do have a payroll is to get an application in. And of course there’s many service providers that can help with that. First place to go is their own bank. That is also where if they had already applied, where they would get a status update. Though, the sheer volume that many banks have been faced with is making it difficult for people to get somebody on the phone to even find out what the status of loan is. I know some of the larger banks are helping folks not to call in at all, that they’ll be notified by e-mail. So they’re kind of in this… they’re in a situation where they can’t get any information proactively. They just have to wait. Now, as far as that is paying it back, there are requirements on how that money is to be spent and at some point it hasn’t been…the process for this hasn’t been built yet, or announced yet, but at some point, there will be business owners who get those funds will need to show documentation of how they spent the money and the timing with how they spent the money. Whatever that process looks like with their bank, that is how it will be determined what they pay back. OK. So, they really have to stay tuned as far as process goes. But in the meantime, they really need to keep good, accurate records, and whatever method they use to keep those records, they need to be consistent. So, we’re telling folks that they should try to match their payroll as much as they can from before this happened to current situation, whatever record-keeping they used beforehand. They should use the same one. And because that’s going to be very important for them to get that loan forgiven. As much as possible. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Got it. Got it. And José, so with your organization and with who you serve, what have you gathered from your small business owners like? Have they received funds? Have they had challenges getting access to those dollars? Have they had challenges with banks? What are the potential roadblocks that we may not see? Because some of us are born in this country and may have a different background versus those that may be immigrants here. What have you seen? 

José Alvarez Well, surprisingly, the challenges that we’re seeing with our particular end-user is pretty much the same that other businesses have been experiencing, especially with a federal program, the PPP. They haven’t had any luck at all at the local level. What we’re seeing is more success and more access with the local programs, especially the two loan programs that the Mecklenburg county activated. We have had a couple clients that have already gone through the application process and they’ve been approved and gotten the money. So, we’re seeing more successes at the local level. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Awesome. OK, so here’s the question I get all the time and I’m dying to know what you guys think. When will things get back to normal? 

Robin McIntire I would say that it’s not going to look the same. Obviously, we have to wait for government officials to give us some guidance on when can we move forward. But I would say that a lot of people’s business models are not going to go back to what they were before. I think this has been a huge learning experience for many business owners and so I think their business models going forward may change, so they’ll have a new normal. But also, they may come to the realization that planning, sustainability, having plans in place for something like this if it were to ever happen again is this well worth the effort. So, I think people will spend a little bit more time thinking that through and making the business more sustainable, maybe diversifying, maybe pivoting altogether from what their business model was before. So, I don’t think it’s going to go back to normal from that perspective, from a business perspective. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews José, what’s your reaction? 

José Alvarez I agree. I absolutely agree with Robin. I mean, one of the beautiful things about human beings being entrepreneurs is that they are very resilient. And so, what we’re seeing is, you know, they’re pivoting. A lot of them are doing that during this painful time. A lot of them are adjusting their business models and they’re pivoting to just to make it happen so that they don’t lose their investment. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Yeah, I was listening to a YouTube video the other day, and this was really good and some people may not like this, but the person said “have a funeral for normal. Go ahead and have the service. Bury it and move past it because it’s not coming back.” So that was interesting because I was like, “that’s a little strong. Some people may not be ready for that yet, but I understand that, right.” My perspective is normal is what you create…

José Alvarez Right, I agree.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews …and what José’s normal is may not be Robin’s normal. Right…

José Alvarez Absolutely.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews …What I’m appreciative of is what we thought was normal six weeks ago has changed so drastically, and I’m hopeful that people can now have perspective and really be grateful for the things that we took for granted. I mean, just the fact that we get to walk outside, it’s Spring. Some nights it’s raining. Some days it’s a beautiful blue sky and the birds are chirping. Like for me, that’s been keeping me centered. Right? I just like that normal is what you create.

José Alvarez Right

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So, question for you guys. How should your employers prepare for reentry? So personally, we have clients that are in all different types of industries, from health care to retail to transportation. And some organizations are just reopening with no plan, with no strategy, with no framework. Right? And my thought process is it’s more than just reopening right now. Right now is focused on now we’re not focused on the future and what is to come. Right? So what are you guys talking about with your business owners as they think about reopening? 

Robin McIntire I would say having a plan, right? And hopefully, they haven’t shut down completely during this time. They’re still communicating with folks. They’re still marketing, I hope. Because there was a study that Harvard did after the 08/09 economic crash, so to speak. And the companies that really did well during that time were companies that kept marketing. They kept communicating. So I’m hoping that they haven’t closed completely, even though if they had a retail location, for example, they may not have had people be able to come in. But hopefully, they were still marketing and communicating to their stakeholders. But they need a plan really to welcome back their employees. You know, what does that look like? You know, what other protocols do they need to put in so that the employees feel safe and welcomed? They need to be communicating with their vendors as far as supply chains and that sort of thing. Obviously communicating with customers. And again, hopefully, they’ve been doing that all along. And then, you know, the financial planning piece. So, I think those are the main components of a reopening plan that they need to be thinking through right now. Because that’s right around the corner for most folks. I hope. 

José Alvarez Yeah and the way we’re doing it is one of the first things that we once we weren’t 100% virtual, I mean, we’re doing our seminars from virtually we’re doing our consulting virtually. All of our twenty-six employees across the organization are working virtually. So, we’re taking a look ourselves first, and then we are providing consulting by example. So, we’re telling our clients “OK, listen. This is how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to be a little bit ready and then this how you move on.” And it’s like I mentioned, it’s providing support to these entrepreneurs who are foreign-born it’s quite a bit of a challenge, but that’s part of the work and it’s easier for us to show them how it’s done by example. You need to do it virtually. You need to pivot this way. Hopefully, you won’t close if you follow what you’re supposed to follow. So that’s the way we’re doing it. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Awesome. So, what I got out of what you said José is it reminds me back to what the airlines say, “put your own mask on first.” In order for you to help somebody else, you’ve got to set the example and do that first. I really love that. How do you be an example? Because that’s the best way to show people as well where do you guys fit in? Because they’re coming to you for help because they don’t know.

So, for us, we put together about five or six questions that we’re asking our business owners. I want to get your reaction to a few of these questions. The first “is who or what is driving reopening?” Is it the bottom line? Is it people? Is it politics? What’s driving why you are reopening? The second one is “what is your success criteria for reopening?” So, one of my clients said, well, we expect to have a hundred percent of our clients back within the first thirty days. Well, I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, especially when there is a lack of consumer confidence right now because we don’t have a vaccine yet. Right? So, what is your success criteria for reopening or recovering? When we fast forward two years from now-now, what? And what does that look like? We believe that what you do over the next 30, 60, 90-days will impact the next two years of the business. So, think ahead as you also think about how you’re going to reopen. The fourth one is “where’s the data coming from?” So where are you getting your data? I’ve been on this big rant that education is coming from the CDC, the World Health Organization, and even those who are in the economy space that are helping us to understand the impact this is having on the global economy. But then we have information that’s coming from social media that may be coming from scared friends and family, potential politicians. Right? You have all this information and education; how do you filter which one is actual strong data? Because data drives decisions. Right? So where are you pulling your data from? How do you define reopening and recovery? Everybody’s definition may be different. So, what is your organization’s definition for what that looks like?  And then lastly, “why?” Even Simon Cynic says, “Start with why. People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” So, helping to communicate the why? So, let me get a reaction. What do you think about those questions in terms of your reopening or recovery strategy?

José Alvarez So I’ll put it in one phrase, this is the answer to all of them, it depends. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Yes. Right. 

José Alvarez You know, the data…we are keeping a close eye. First of all, you know, both federal and state would just fall in because, you know, obviously local follows whatever state and federal says.  We’re also internally within the organization, we’re polling our clients – the clients we’re serving in our request for service have increased over 200% compared to last year within the organization. So, we’ve been polling these clients that we have been helping on a weekly basis. And so that’s that way we’re gathering our own data when it comes to the consulting services that we provide. And what we’re seeing is nobody right now, nobody – might be less than 1% of the calls we’re getting of people who want to start a business – the rest is just those who already have something that they want to save their investment. So, 99.9% of those requests are just people with businesses trying to save it. 

Robin McIntire I would say all of those are great questions that business owners need to be asking and some of those questions may be hard where they may have to take a hard look and an objective look. They need to remove themselves from the picture and look at it as an entity. So, some of those questions need to be answered as an entity and try to take the emotion out of it which is way easier said than done. But the other two comments I would make is they need to focus on what they can control. A lot of this other stuff they have going on out here they can’t control. Their focus needs to be reigned in. “What can I control?” And then as far as data I would say hyper-local, in some cases, because there’s so much going. We’ve heard a lot about different parts of the country being different and it’s the same with businesses. As José said it does depend. It depends on your location and what your business is but the more local you can get that data the better I think. That would be my thoughts but definitely that’s a good framework of questions that business owners should be working through.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So I love that. You know, local focus, because that’s where it starts is where you are now. Right. So really understanding your environment. So, José mentioned some interesting trends that he’s seeing in his business model in terms of not necessarily too many new people that want to start a business. I’m not surprised, I wouldn’t either. But, Robin, what types of trends have you noticed over the past few weeks with your clients and the types of calls that you’re getting? 

Robin McIntire  We are trying to counsel our clients to be thinking more holistically, like, OK, what if you don’t get any funding? Because, you know, that’s not everybody’s going to get funding. So, what’s a plan B look like? We’re also counseling them to look into the future a little bit. So rather than focus on money what other things that you can do, but that that really honestly has been the main focus of the people calling in both clients and non-clients. And literally, you know, hundreds of calls, hundreds of maybe even thousands of calls across the state. That’s partially because of the national news around the CARES Act and the funding of patients. Of course, you know, we’re trying to point folks to local funding opportunities as well. We link to the Charlotte ones and the other cities across the state that are doing local funding programs. We are linking those on our website as well. But we are getting some folks that are wanting to start businesses as well, not as many as previously, but we have a startup program called Taking the Leap, and it’s a cohort model-four-week program. We’ve converted that to all virtual and we run that back-to-back every month, and we probably have about twenty-five participants in all of those. And that’s statewide. So that’s not just Charlotte. I should mention that that’s twenty-five from across the state because it’s virtual, so they can be from anywhere. But yeah, we’re seeing in some and it is surprising. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews The  Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce provides its members with transformational networking and educational opportunities that increase the financial, intellectual and social capital of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender business communities. The Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce offers monthly networking events to highlight topics relevant to professionals and business owners within Charlotte. If you want to learn more about Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce head over to CBRbiz.com

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews  So a couple of more questions for you guys. So I don’t know about your business owners, but I would much rather have a grant than a loan. Can you help to share where can business owners find loans versus grants? What are some creative things that you have in your toolkit that you can help to give some of these small business owners so that we can kind of look beyond just what’s coming from the stimulus package, but also what may be coming from private industry or other organizations? 

Robin McIntire When they come out, we share those proactively with clients who would be appropriate for applying for something like that, but there are some that are long term that are always there. Of course, we help clients with those applications as well. But really, they have to be good for writing proposals and things like that. So because there’s competition for grants, just like there’s competition for loans. So, we help clients to find opportunities that are really suited for them. Everybody would rather not pay it back and that’s part of the CARES Act is as part of the EIDL, which is from the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan part, that does come in the form of an advance, which does not have to be paid back. And then, of course, the Paycheck Protection Program has a forgiving component as well. Then there’s a lot of other very local small grant opportunities out there. When we look at grants from the CARES Act, really, where’s that money coming from? It’s coming from workers, you know, and so owners eventually. So, we’re all supporting that. We’re all contributing to those funds that get shared out to other people that need it. So, it’s a way that society as a whole can contribute to those who need. So, yeah, we try to assist clients in that regard as much as we can as well, although those opportunities are not as great as we’d like them to be sometimes. 

José Alvarez  And the way we look at it is we’re, like I mentioned, we’re helping these entrepreneurs first assess where they are, because right now they’re desperate. They’re overwhelmed. Just without a crisis running a business is overwhelming for most of them. So now they lose sight of everything. So, what we tell them is, OK, we need to assess. Second thing we do is we tell them you need to look for help. I mean, Charlotte has a beautiful ecosystem of organizations. Charlotte Business Resources is one example of partners that come together and work together to help these entrepreneurs. So, we tell them you need to look for help from specialists who know where to get help to get these either loan, micro-loan, or a grant. And then help me figure out how to apply, etc, etc. There is no perfect formula for a grant or how to apply for a grant because there are many… First of all, just the sources where they’re coming from, whether it’s government foundation, nonprofit. So just that in itself is confusing. So, we tell them you need to assess, you need to look for help from these trustworthy organizations in the ecosystem. And then let yourself be guided by these  partners, because at the end of the day, we’re the ones who know what would be best for each specific case. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews  Yep, absolutely. So, we have a few minutes left and we open to talking about the importance of having not only communications but strategy and thinking about what’s next. So, I’m going to share something that we’ve been talking through with our customers on a framework of how do I think about what’s next? Right? So first I’ll caveat by saying in our space, from a business continuity perspective, there really has never been in history any event that is as prolonged as COVID-19, especially on a global level. So even, you know, business continuity professionals like myself are having to go back, rethink and pivot. So, this framework was actually created by Dr. David Winsted, who is one of the founding members behind the Adaptive Business Continuity Approach. And I happen to serve on an advisory board for the group. And so, what this is a three-phase approach to COVID-19 to normalization. Right. Because it’s a cultural norm that we’re working towards and none of us really know what that is yet. Right. So, where we are right now is in phase one. We’re in compliance and cooperation. We’re sheltering in place, we’re staying home, we’re wearing our masks. Depending on where you are in the country the exit criteria for this is when the quarantine lifts. So, if you’re in Georgia or South Carolina, there’s some aspects of those states that are reopening and that are re-lifting, right? And as we’ve seen in China, parts of Japan, once these quarantine resolutions have been lifted, some have had to come back into place if the numbers of the virus go up.  Right? So, we can come back to this compliance and cooperation place over time. It just depends on how the virus performs and what we do as people more importantly. Then we have phase two where it’s consternation and exploration. And this can potentially last us into Halloween. So, October of 2020 or beyond. Right? And in this phase, there’s a lot of questions and ambiguity. Can I go to the mall? Can I not go to the mall? Can I get my hair done? Can I not get my hair done? Can I go to a sports game? Can I not go to a sports game? And that creates friction because you have government saying one thing and then you have private sector doing something different. Right? And so, you have all these questions and everything that we want to do is an exploration. No one really has an answer because again, no one has gone through this before. And so, this the phase where we believe a skill set that we’re going to need in our business owners is leadership. Right? Being able to lead the troops through so much uncertainty and chaos and the difference of opinion. Now, what’s interesting is the exit criteria for phase two is a treatment, not a cure, but a treatment like a workaround. So, if I get sick, then what’s the protocol until there is a vaccine? Right? I received an email today from an article, from a credible source that there’s a new prediction that this may last for two years. So, I can definitely see that again, because this is always driven by a vaccine. So just kind of, you know, thinking about what does that looks like over time with so much friction. So, as business owners, how do we lead our people? How do we lead our teams when there’s so much ambiguity and there’s so many questions? But then there’s this phase 3, where the expectation is that there will be competition and then adaptation to a cultural norm. In this phase people will look we’ll be looking to take over and think about how they capitalize in this new market. Right? So, we expect litigation to go up in phase 3. There could potentially be foreign investors that come into local markets. There could potentially be large gentrification efforts. Why? Because larger firms that are cash heavy who are thinking about this strategy now may be better positioned to do this later. So, I’m sharing this to give perspective, especially to our business community. And our recommendation is spend time now  now thinking about your phase three. How do you compete in an environment that’s highly competitive? How do you compete in an environment that may potentially have limited resources? And what does that look like for your business model? Robin talked about pivot. Right? Everybody has to pivot. Even a crisis management company has to pivot, no matter what business you are in you can grow and be irrelevant if we don’t pivot and make some of these changes now, and eventually, we’ll get to a cultural norm, whatever that cultural norm is. But in order for us to accomplish the things and phase one, phase two, phase three, we’re going to have to have to have a different strategy. That’s why we go back to crisis management it’s 80% communications, 20% strategy. So, we literally have like a minute or two. Robin, José, what are your initial one-minute thoughts to what we just talked about? And what do you think business owners can do with a high-level timeline to help them think through what’s next? 

Robin McIntire  I would just say that some of these timelines blend into the next one. Right? A little bit. So, I think we’re already at deep opinions I think in some instances where we’re trying to be cooperative. We’re already, you know, getting tired of that. So, but, you know, definitely the third box is where folks need to be focusing their planning efforts, for sure. You know, and they need to think outside of the box. I would say, you know, what their business looks like today may be completely different. It may be you partner with somebody else. And, you know, form a whole different company. It’s going to take some planning and I would be talking to a lot of customers, you know, finding out what they’re doing different now. Right. And try to be ahead of that. So, it’s not going to be easy, but that’s definitely where they need to be spending their time, I think, in planning. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews  Right. Love it. José, what do you think? 

José Alvarez I agree. I think the first two boxes. I would tell them, just be patient, cooperate. And as you explore be patient and then the third one would be just pivoting and let’s sit down. Different ecosystem partners can provide assitance and help you figure out how to pivot your business, and then take it from there. I mean, there is hope at the end of the tunnel is just being patient and just following the different guidelines and look for help. I mean, there is still help. I mean, there is remote help, but at least there is help. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews  Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve been on a number of calls, just like you guys, right? And a few things that I’ve heard that tie into what you just said. One, the most important key performance indicator is how much you’re on the phone with your customers, your clients, and your partners. This is the time to talk to people. Asking them what their needs are and what their constraints are because we can make an assumption, but it’s really good to have them on the phone just to ask the question because then we know how we can serve them. Right? And I agree with you José. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Crisis breeds innovation. It breeds creativity. And this is also the time where you definitely want to pool and call on your network. So, we have about 30 seconds left. Robin, where can our subscribers find you? 

Robin McIntire  So I would just recommend they go to our website, SBTDC.org and again at Small Business and Technology Development Center, SBTDC.org. Funny you mentioned communications so many times because we have a number of articles up there on our website about preparing to reopen, analyzing your business and what you should be doing. And communication is one of the common themes of those articles that we have. But we have information up there, of course, that links its owners up to the funding opportunities as well. So that’s where they should go. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Thank you. And José? Where can we find you? 

José Alvarez ProsperaUSA.org but I would encourage you to go to CharlotteBusinessResources.com because that’s where all our partners are listed there and our contact information on. In addition to the other many local resources available to them are posted on that site. 

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews Awesome. Thank you, guys. 

Robin McIntire Thank you.

José Alvarez Thank you for having us.

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews So, for exclusive interviews with small business professionals, make sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts, or at CBRbiz.com and if you liked today’s show, please rate and review us. If you have any questions or topics or suggestions, send in your requests at CBRbiz on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Again, I am your host, Vanessa Vaughn Matthews, and thanks again for listening to the CBR B2U Podcast. 


The B2U Podcast is now available on YouTube! Watch today’s episode below, or click here for additional small business interviews.

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