Positive actions your small business can take now

By Brenda LaMarche | HR Column

The entire country has been affected by the coronavirus as illnesses and business closures continue to swell. Even though my company has been called on to help temporarily lay off employees or close operations over the past three weeks, I still work hard to stay positive. These are scary times, but we all need to work together to look to the future.

What can you do, as a small business, even if your doors are now closed?

Think positively. I’ve seen many small businesses stuck like a deer in headlights – frozen and unable to function or adapt. Remember that just because you may not have customers today, it doesn’t mean they won’t return. Now is the time to stay positive.

Work on your marketing plans so your customers know you reopen when this crisis is over. Going completely dark will make it harder for your customers to remember you when the economy gets moving again. And don’t forget to use the resources in your network, such as HR, accounting and business development professionals.

Stay in touch with employees who are temporarily laid off or furloughed. Let them know you value them and plan to bring them back when you re-open. Communicating with employees who are not being paid is not a violation of labor guidelines. Note, if you start asking your unpaid employees to do work while on unpaid furlough or temporary layoff, you must pay them for their time.

If you’re an “essential business” that continues to operate, some of your workers may need childcare. Communicate with your team to keep them informed of childcare options. Many daycare facilities are still operating.

Talk to your bank. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) is offering loans at a potential 1% interest rate to cover payroll and group insurance costs during the next eight weeks. Even if your business doesn’t qualify for loan forgiveness, a 1% interest rate is excellent, and the loan is paid back over two years. There are many great informational resources available online, but you’ll also want to talk to your banker, who can provide more specific information for your specific situation.

Here’s some of the information your bank may request if you want to pursue one of these loans:

• PPP application form from www.sba.gov
• Payroll tax returns for all four quarters in 2019
• Payroll report totals for 2019 (some banks will want the payroll register for each pay period in 2019)
• Payroll register for the pay period in 2020 that contains Feb. 15
• Proof of group insurance payments for 2019
• Proof of retirement funding deposits for 2019
• Documentation on how you calculated 2.5 times your monthly payroll costs. Do not forget yourself as an owner and do not include employee wages over $100,000.
• Statement to certify that employees are capped at $100,000 or that no employees earned that much in 2019
• Copy of the driver’s license for each 25% or more owner

Look at other funding options. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program includes a $10,000 grant, even if the loan is denied. This could help you cover operational expenses during a temporary shutdown and to ramp up for reopening. Some banks may also offer bridge loans or expanded lines of credit.

Take care of deferred duties. Many small businesses are continuing to pay employees even though there’s not enough work to keep them busy. Now is the time to have them do those “other duties as assigned!” What about scanning files to build your digital database? What about updating file systems or reviewing procedures for accuracy? Many procedures are written, forgotten about and never touched again. Use this time to update your company’s procedures or policies to meet what is actually happening in your business today, or where you want your business to be upon reopening.

Most of all, stay positive during these challenging times, wash your hands a lot and stay home if you can. We’ll get through this together! •

Brenda LaMarche is president of BRL HR Consulting, a human resources consulting and outsourcing firm providing nationwide services, located in North Liberty.