Pivot plan is critical for small business survival | Guest column

Submitted by Jeremy Field, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Duane Fladland, Washington Small Business Development Center

When people describe entrepreneurs and small business owners as resilient, there has never been a time when that has been truer than the past six months.

As businesses deal with a new reality and “business as usual” takes on an entirely new meaning, most businesses need to rethink and retool how they do business in order to survive. A pivot plan is critical.

Being a small business owner can often feel lonely, with the world, clients and employees weighing on their shoulders. The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Washington Small Business Development Center want one message to ring clear for businesses figuring out a pivot plan: you are not alone.

The SBDC network is the largest resource partner funded by the SBA and provides one-on-one business advising at no cost to entrepreneurs. Whether it’s creating a resiliency plan, navigating options for financing, reworking a marketing plan, or establishing new operations systems, SBDC certified advisers walk business owners through their options so they can confidently make tough decisions about their business.

If they haven’t already updated their business plan, business owners should be taking these three steps now:

• Determine how customers’ needs and wants may have changed due to the pandemic, and respond accordingly.

• Evaluate business operations to find opportunities to work smarter and more cost-efficiently.

• Review financials, short-term goals and long-term goals to have a viable plan to move forward.

SBDC advisers are actively helping Washington businesses with these things already. In fact, 7,271 small businesses have received technical guidance from the Washington SBDC since March in the form of confidential one-on-one advising and public training webinars.

Plus, SBDC advisers helped 1,044 Washington small businesses get approved for more than $38.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, SBA COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and EIDL Advances.

Working together with local partners, SBA staff and SBDC advisers educated small businesses about the financing programs and helped guide business owners through the process. And both of our organizations continue to guide businesses through the PPP forgiveness process and SBA Debt Relief programs, among other Coronavirus business support.

Thanks to additional funding from the CARES Act, the SBA provided the Washington SBDC with additional funding that has been used to offer in-depth technical guidance to small business that employ more than 104,386 full-time jobs and 55,822 part-time jobs.

For example, when panic started to set in for the owners of Pure Bliss Desserts in Bellingham, they turned to their SBDC adviser who helped them identify and focus on the most productive actions they could make for their business. With his guidance, they focused on three channels of service: grab and go orders, whole cake pre-orders, and dessert delivery service. He helped them through the PPP application process; and, with help from the PPP and their SBDC adviser, Owner Andrea Vann says her business is back on track for long-term sustainability.

This is not the first obstacle small businesses have had to face. It will absolutely not be the last either. One thing is for certain though: for decades, the SBA and Washington SBDC have been there to empower small businesses to weather the storm and we’ll continue to do so through every stage of a business’ lifecycle.

Jeremy Field is the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Pacific Northwest Region which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.

Duane Fladland is the state director of the Washington Small Business Development Center, an SBA-funded Resource Partner. The SBDC network provides management and technical assistance to help Americans start, run and grow their own businesses