Building Up Businesses
How The University of Scranton SBDC is working to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s recent one-year anniversary this past month, businesses nationwide are marking the milestone by asking one major question, “When will it end?”
With no end in sight for the foreseeable future, prospects may seem somewhat bleak for businesses already crippled by various lockdowns, restrictions, and other challenges from the past year. In fact, the United States Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey data shows that nationally 28.2 percent of businesses have been affected by the pandemic in some way. That same report shows that Pennsylvania’s businesses have reported higher than average effects, with 31.3 percent of statewide businesses being affected.
While those numbers may cause alarm for some people, Leigh Fennie of The University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) says that if businesses take the time to reevaluate their approach, they can bounce back better than ever. Ms. Fennie is the SBDC’s Business Consultant responsible for assisting COVID-affected existing small businesses, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the Small Business Administration.
“When clients register with us, we ask them if their business has been affected by COVID, and more often than not, if they’re an existing business, the answer is ‘yes,’” she said. “We’re seeing some businesses that have really taken off that now need assistance with the growth they’ve been seeing, and we see the other side, where businesses have had to shut down or make changes depending on the rules and regulations put in place. We’re working with them to figure out their struggles and challenges.”
Ms. Fennie explained that for as many businesses that exist, there are just as many questions about how to move forward during the pandemic, including financing, staffing, and overall operational concerns.
“We’re seeing a lot more businesses who have been closed this whole time who haven’t done anything in terms of trying to get financing or changing their business model to accommodate new needs, or who simply shut down last March without doing anything since,” she said. “We try to help them navigate all this by showing them what’s going on and how they could potentially run their businesses because, whatever they might look like now, they’re going to be different. Some people think they are going to jump right back in and it will be completely normal. We have to explain that we aren’t necessarily back to pre-pandemic normal, we’re at a new normal.”
One thing that Ms. Fennie is advising clients is to embrace the changes that the new normal can bring.
“We’re really encouraging people to be willing and able to change their business model or how they do business,” she said. “Maybe someone has been in business for 20 or 30 years and is doing the same thing and it has always worked. Now we’re in a completely different environment than we’ve ever seen. It’s vitally important for small businesses to quickly change what they’re doing.”
“That’s one of the perks of small businesses—they can change very quickly,” she continued. “You’re going to see businesses come out of this in a better spot than others because those businesses were willing to change. The businesses that survive this make the necessary changes and don’t have the ‘this is what we’ve always done’ mindset. They want their businesses to survive and will do what they need to in order for that to happen and, of course, we’re here to help them.”
For more information on how The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center can help your business discover available options via the CARES Act or other COVID-related assistance, visit www.scrantonsbdc.com