Growing Your Business by Learning from Challenging Times
As businesses reopen and face new ways to operate and generate revenues this summer and beyond, many are looking for guidance as they develop new growth strategies, discover new cash flow resources and consider an SBA program for support.
We spoke with Zoe Combs, who joined WSFS Bank as Vice President, SBA Relationship Manager in March 2020 amid the pandemic, for her perspective on the small business community’s opportunities and challenges post-COVID-19.
What general advice would you give small business owners as they assess their financial options now and in the future?
I would encourage business owners to reflect and analyze their financial scenario, both historically and going forward. Take this time as an opportunity to streamline, make improvements, and brainstorm creative ways to generate alternative revenue streams. Many businesses will need support from their lenders. The good news is that there are many resources to assist with this with the SBA being at the top of the list. The SBA.gov website provides invaluable resources to assist with business planning.
Whether they have determined that they need to consolidate existing debt over a longer term, secure new capital to support growth or expansion into a new market or just working capital, businesses should be discussing their options with their bank, CPAs and attorneys to identify what is best. Industry associations, chambers of commerce and small business development centers are also excellent sources of information, so joining and staying connected with them is a huge benefit.
If a small business owner is looking to expand and grow, what products and resources should they consider that will provide access to capital?
First, businesses should evaluate the following:
- Am I looking to grow or expand within my current industry or are there opportunities outside of my industry? What challenges will this present and what will my needs be?
- If we acquire new clients will this present any challenges with my current client base? If so, how will I mitigate those challenges?
- What type of capital and resources will this expansion require? Increase in labor, equipment, inventory, working capital to assist with operating cycle?
Preserving capital for an unexpected future need is crucial, so in order to expand most businesses will need to secure capital through a lender. That’s where the use of the SBA programs become a valuable tool to assist when capital is needed.
Even under normal circumstances the current SBA programs provide support due to their use of projections when evaluating a request. These programs also offer minimal cash investment, longer repayment terms, flexible underwriting requirements and competitive rates.
Since the SBA provides lenders with a guarantee that minimizes their risk when offering capital to a business, these programs will be used more often in our current environment. A few of the most helpful SBA programs are the 7(a), SBA Express and the 504 loans.
What should small businesses be prepared to discuss when exploring SBA program options, especially as they emerge from COVID-19?
Small businesses should be able to answer the following regarding COVID-19.
- What was the impact on my business?
- What is the current state of my business?
- What changes are or will be made and what is their impact?
- How will they prepare in case of another shut down?
They should also be prepared to provide up-to date-financial information both personally and for their business as well as at least one year of projections based on what they are requesting. If they need assistance with this, they can reference the resources I listed above or access information on the SBA website.
Ultimately, small business owners should surround themselves with a team of trusted advisors. Gaining capital for a specific purpose may be transactional but creating and maintaining partnerships with professionals, like their banker, will help businesses get back on their feet and thrive in the future.
About the Author – Zoe Combs
Zoe Combs joined the WSFS SBA team in March 2020 as Vice President, SBA Relationship Manager, bringing with her 30 years of banking experience. Prior to joining WSFS, she held positions serving SBA and banking clients throughout the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware region.
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