keep business afloat

8 Crisis Management Strategies to Keep Your Business Strong

Gene Marks & Kelly Spors

Running a small business is challenging. But now, these challenges have multiplied thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. So, how can you keep your business afloat over the next few months until this is behind us? Here are eight crisis management strategies you can use to keep your business strong.

What is Crisis Management?

Crisis management is the way by which businesses and other organizations deal with highly disruptive events or disasters—essentially what they do to navigate and minimize the effects of the crisis.

The most effective way to do this is by creating a formal crisis management plan or risk management plan that addresses the key risks a business will face in the event of a crisis. This response plan basically lays out all of the risks and the steps they will take to minimize each of those risks.

Such plans needs to look at a crisis from all angles, including how it could affect your customer base, employees and suppliers, as well as your general ability to continue your operations and generate revenue. As we’ve learned during this crisis, it’s important to consider what your crisis management process would be if your business is forced to shut down temporarily or operate remotely during a crisis situation.

How Small Businesses Survive Recessions

No small business is completely recession proof, of course. But those that have created a crisis management plan (often part of a general business continuity plan) are much less exposed during a recession because they have a roadmap they can pull out when a recession strikes—or even better, when it appears likely to strike in the near future. They don’t have to scramble to figure out what to do or how to react because their crisis management strategies are planned out and ready to be enacted.

During the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009, small business owners who had a business continuity plan were able to navigate the economic crisis much more successfully because they had already thought through the key challenges a crisis situation such as a recession would bring, such as fewer customers willing or able to spend money and a lack of business financing available. Because they had created those plans in advance, they didn’t find themselves caught off guard and were able to quickly make the changes they needed to survive.

Thinking through all of the ways a crisis could affect your business is imperative. The following eight tips provide a starting point for small business owners to build their own crisis management strategies and make a plan—not only for this crisis, but the crises that will inevitably happen down the road.

managing crisis small business

8 Things to Have in Your Crisis Management Plan

Get an SBA loan.

The Small Business Administration is now offering very low interest loans to small businesses in need through its Disaster Assistance program. Because these loans are issued directly by the SBA, approval times are significantly less and the red tape is significantly lower.

Get money from your state.

Many states have setup funds, grants and loan programs for small businesses in need of assistance during this pandemic. Every state in the country is providing information, advice and counseling. Go to your state’s website to see what’s available for you.

Get money from your city.

Many cities and regions have setup funds and loan programs for their local small businesses as part of their crisis management plan and you might be in a region where you can benefit. We’ve put together a comprehensive small business assistance guide on how to receive aid and keep your business open in each state.

small business crisis management

Talk with your accountant.

Tax return filing deadlines have been extended through July 15. The same goes for payment deadlines for your final amounts due from 2019. Talk to your accountant about this. Adjust your estimated taxes for this year. Consider filing your taxes early if you’re looking at a refund. Also, if you’re offering paid time off to your employees under the new federal legislation, get familiar with the tax credits you can get back.

Push your banker.

Reach out to your banker. Confirm your available lines of credit. Ask if your bank is offering any special loans or financings for small businesses related to this pandemic. Many larger banks are already doing this, and it’s likely that your bank will work out new payback programs to defer cash outlays for the short term.

Push your big vendors.

Your smaller suppliers are likely suffering through these times, but your bigger vendors have more resources to weather this storm and many of them are open to helping. Don’t be shy. You should be calling your largest vendors and suppliers and discussing extended payment terms to help alleviate your cash flow challenges during this small business financial crisis. You will be surprised at how open they are to doing this.

Educate your team members.

Communicating during a crisis is essential. Communicate frequently with your staff, even if they’ve been furloughed, like so many restaurants and merchants have been forced to do. Why? Because they need to hear what’s going on and you need to keep them close for when you’re back in business and needing staff. Keep them posted on company developments, but more importantly educate them on all the benefits that you and the government have made available for them to get through these times.

Finally, use the downtime.

Hopefully you can steer the ship enough so that things are fairly settled for the next month or so. If that’s the case, then use the downtime wisely. Check out our small business resource center and our list of small business survival resources. Plan for the future. Get some employee evaluations done. Clean up your data. Do some online training. Rest.

crisis management strategies

I believe the Coronavirus pandemic is a short-term event. I also believe that when it’s behind us, the economic snap-back will be significant. Those are my beliefs and I’m running my business with this in mind. I’ve taken all the steps mentioned above, as part of my crisis management plan, to keep me going until then and I hope you’ll do the same.

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30 Responses to "8 Crisis Management Strategies to Keep Your Business Strong"
    • Susan Trefethen | April 9, 2020 at 4:59 am

      I am not clear on whether I should apply for both programs.
      The PPP loan you didn’t mention.
      Do I also sign up for The Disaster Relief Fund ?
      Both are through the SBA I believe.
      Thank you for your assistance.
      I own a small retail business with 5 employees, 4 part/time 1 full time.

      Business located in Berkeley CA.
      I am concerned about how to get started.

    • Kristen raugust | April 9, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Thanks we are a family restaurant wanting to open soon.

    • Gene Marks | April 10, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      For Susan Trefethen

      You should apply for two programs:
      Economic Injury Disaster Loan – sba.gov – makes available $2M at 3.75% fixed for 30 years
      Paycheck Protection Program – apply to an SBA member bank – makes available up to $10M in 2 year, 1% loans where you can get forgiveness of your payroll and other expenses.

    • Bill | April 10, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      I have a small flooring business & I’m in tax trouble now. Last year & this year. I don’t know how to go about all this. I had to give up workman’s compensation cause I am not working as much & not at all now. My taxes I owe is roughly under 3,000.

    • Ken Kelly | April 13, 2020 at 5:55 am

      Thank you good info.

    • Lissa Wall | April 13, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Looking for info on small business loan that will be forgiven by gov’t.

    • Colleen Graham | April 28, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks for your service!

    • Nancy | April 28, 2020 at 10:23 pm

      Thank you, I have a small business with 7 employees 4 part timers and 3 full time. Im still paying the full time ones, I apply for both the sba and the ppp but none has responded yet. should I apply again or just wait?

    • Latrice Tyler | April 28, 2020 at 10:35 pm

      Hi I’m not sure if I applied the right way. I received a number after i completed my app on sba and haven’t heard back yet. I called the 800 number n they assured me it was for the eidl. Should i continue 2 call or just wait. I’m nervous because I’m unsure. Thanks

    • Katie Allison | April 28, 2020 at 11:02 pm

      Is anyone else tired of people recommending the same resources like we’ve never even heard of them? It sounds like there are less hoops we need to jump through but that’s not the case! We’ve applied for every loan we can find: PPP through 3 banks and 2 other organizations, SBA’s EIDL, and a local city loan… all are taking a long time. All the advisors say “get in line”! If 1 PPP loan comes through, we’ll cancel the other applications. But we’re hoping for multiple loans because help with payroll and utilities alone aren’t going to save us and cash is running out! Sorry for venting but e reality if this is much different than the SBA likes to share!!

    • Nash Jones | April 28, 2020 at 11:51 pm

      thanks

    • Leigh sparks | April 29, 2020 at 1:12 am

      And insurance companies compensate clients for business interruption!

    • Irma | April 29, 2020 at 4:33 am

      Hopefully I got a place to learning how survive this worst business times!
      Thanks

    • Irma | April 29, 2020 at 4:34 am

      Great!

    • Roman | April 29, 2020 at 6:37 am

      Looking for Economic Injury Disaster Loan – 30 years. Can’t find any link at SBA.gov to apply, are they out of money for these loans?

    • Ken Cockerham | April 29, 2020 at 9:47 am

      Great perspective. Clear and concise. Thank you.

    • B. Kavelman | April 29, 2020 at 10:43 am

      Your advice to apply for SBA loans is misguided. The NY District Director advised us that the 6-month loan is closed for applications after the first round, because they’re still processing more requests than they have funds for.
      Also, the Payroll Protection Loan is nearly impossible to apply for. The SBA interactive map the Director advised us to consult by zip code reveals that at least 80% of the “lenders” she is featuring are not accepting applications. They don’t even have them on their websites. I have spent hours on this process and do not believe it will yield anything for me, though I am in the epicenter of the pandemic.
      If somebody lives in a small town with fewer applicants, they can cash in on this.

    • Gordon Manus | April 29, 2020 at 10:48 am

      Yes, I would like to PUSH our Insurance company for “Business Interruption” which has always been touted as a big plus on our policy!
      Or how about a reduction while our business is closed.

      • Chloe Silverman | April 30, 2020 at 12:30 pm

        Hi Gordon, Thank you for reaching out. As the federal government and states implement new regulations, we will adjust our approach wherever needed. You can find updates here as more information becomes available. We understand these are challenging times and want to make sure that if you have any other questions pertaining to your policy to contact our customer service center or your agent so that we can discuss what options might be available to you. Our representatives are available M-F: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET at 866-467-8730 or you can visit our online service site. Thank you!

    • Karl S | April 29, 2020 at 11:17 am

      This is a tough one. We have a family business and this economic “closure” from the pandemic is hitting us hard like everyone else.

      .com Bubble, 9/11, 2008 housing market collapse should have been some good lessons to run your business frugally, but I admit this one is the toughest we have seen. So if you are running your business over the years frugally, you should be ok to weather the pandemic, but you have to change your mind set. You must under all circumstances change gears and reserve cash to pay for your bare essentials to keep your business open. This is hard as most businesses do not have a reserve of cash (like us) and operate ok with month to month profits but any prolonged (weeks or months) hit to the business can devastate your operations.

      If you haven’t already done so and are able to, you probably have to off your employees and have everyone file for unemployment immediately. Payroll usually is the largest expense for any business. This includes the owner. The goal is to reserve as much cash as possible. Employees will get “something” weekly, and right now the Federal government has included a $600 tax free weekly check which equates to approx $15/hour for 40 hours per week. This is in addition to unemployment. For all the people hating the government this is something we should not complain about, they are doing their best and we applaud their efforts. Also be sure you are doing everything possible to get your relief check. Finally, make sure you are also having the conversations with your employees…the goal is to get through this together, but let them know you will need them back. The tough part is some employees that do not have forward thinking will just stay at home and collect unemployment through July or longer. They should want to have a business to come back to, even though if it is making less than unemployment. Your place of business will provide an income much longer than unemployment.

      There are a number of other things we are doing to help survive, but the above is an important one. There is no magic formula as every business is different. If you are a business owner, more than likely you will navigate through this. We wish everyone the best. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Karl S | April 29, 2020 at 11:20 am

      That would be “lay” off your employees.

    • Floating Mountain | April 29, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      I have small tea house in NYC and had applied for SBA Disaster loan on day one it was available, to PPP and Face Book grand as soon as those were available (didn’t hear about any other programs available from the city or the state). I have not heard back from any of the sources. It feels like a big illusion that there is some help to small business. My insurance company sent me a disclaimer that no business interruption caused by virus was covered..

    • Patricia Thorpe | April 29, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      I got a SBA loans for 7,000. can I apply for a PPP loan also, and where?

    • Theresa Russo | April 29, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      I applied for the disaster and SMA and have not heard from them. I applied early April.
      I also called my Liability and Worker’s Comp and they told me I do have the business interruption policy and that it does not cover Viruses. I called them back and told them we are not inflicted with the virus. The claim is about the Pandemic. I can’t believe any policy says virus. Any help you could give me would be wonderful.

      • Chloe Silverman | April 30, 2020 at 12:23 pm

        Hi Theresa, Thanks for your question. As the federal government and states implement new regulations, we will adjust our approach wherever needed. You can find updates here as more information becomes available. We understand these are challenging times and want to make sure that if you have any other questions pertaining to your policy to contact our customer service center or your agent so that we can discuss what options might be available to you. Our representatives are available M-F: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET at 866-467-8730 or you can visit our online service site. Thank you!

    • Janice | April 30, 2020 at 11:22 am

      We have applied for both EIDl and PPP. Basically they say wait in line. SBA Website states “First Come First Serve”. Clearly this is not the case as I know businesses personally who applied after us and have already heard and received money.
      This whole process is such a crock! The big banks cater to the bigger small businesses, not the 3 people businesses who are really struggling.
      Small businesses with 1-50 employees should never be grouped together with businesses of 500 employees.

    • Josh | April 30, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      Forget the Big Banks… go to Square.com and apply for the PPP through them. Applied and got the loan approved in 2 days. Keep in mind we were/are a client, but only run about 90K through them per year.

      Also apply through PayPal.

    • MICHAEL SHANOK | April 30, 2020 at 11:54 pm

      Don’t rest! Sequestering is not a vacation. Use the time to learn. There are hundreds of webinars out there, mostly free, conducted by vendors, manufacturers, etc. that can teach you how to use their products better, safer, more economically.

      If you can enter your workplace, spend some time making it better, more attractive, more productive, more competitive (and in my case, getting rid of the stuff we never use).

      If you have control of your website, study it for ways to improve it – most websites have a few sentences with misspellings, unclear phrases or language that can be improved.

      If you are able to communicate with your customers/clients, spend some time letting them know you care about them and finding out what they like most or least about doing business with you. At the least, make sure they know you you will be back when the COVID-19 craziness subsides.

    • Linda | May 1, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Responding to Katie Allison | April 28, 2020 at 11:02 pm who posted:

      Is anyone else tired of people recommending the same resources like we’ve never even heard of them? It sounds like there are less hoops we need to jump through but that’s not the case! We’ve applied for every loan we can find: PPP through 3 banks and 2 other organizations, SBA’s EIDL, and a local city loan… all are taking a long time. All the advisors say “get in line”! If 1 PPP loan comes through, we’ll cancel the other applications. But we’re hoping for multiple loans because help with payroll and utilities alone aren’t going to save us and cash is running out! Sorry for venting but e reality if this is much different than the SBA likes to share!!

      Yes, Allison, I agree that the same resources are being regurgitated by everyone with whom we attempt further clarification, but in my opinion, each time you review these resources and/or documents, you will be able to glean even more information and additional insight.

      For example, the SBA clearly spells out that you may only receive one PPP loan per tax ID (company/business). So, unless I misunderstood your post, you cannot hope for more loans…at least not the PPP, as of right now. You may of course apply for OTHER loans but only one PPP per company is allowed or will be granted.

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