American Rescue Plan for Small Business

American Rescue Plan for Small Business

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into a law on March 11th, 2021. Officials of the administration and leaders of various associations have claimed that the $ 1.9 trillion plan should be transformational. The key will be to fully utilize all provisions of the American Rescue Plan for Small Business.

I had the opportunity to attend a White House Briefing organized by Small Business For America’s Future, Business Forward & other partner organizations. The briefing included a conversation with Bharat Ramamurti, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. The conversation focused on American Rescue Plan for Small Business. One highlight was that spreading the information was most essential for the success of this law.

I have tried to put together all relevant information and benefits of the American Rescue Plan for Small Businesses & Startups. Let us start with some highlights:

American Rescue Plan Highlights

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

UPDATE: PPP LOAN DEADLINE EXTENDED TILL MAY 31 2021.

Paycheck Protection Program commonly known as PPP is a loan offered by the Federal Government. Purpose of this loan is to incentivize small businesses to continue paying wages to their staff. The scheme comes with a high possibility of loan forgiveness if the funds are utilized as desired.

PPP loans were originally being offered till March 31st, but both the House & Senate have passed the PPP extension act. This has also been signed by the President pushing the deadline to May 31st.

The American Rescue Act opens PPP to more underserved business with the following changes.

  • Revised funding formula for sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals.
  • Allowing small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions to access PPP.
  • Allowing small business owners with student loan delinquency to access PPP.
  • Allowing the use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) by  non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents to access PPP.

Resources

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

This is a low interest loan designed to help businesses take care of their running expenses and other fixed liabilities. This is targeted at businesses who have suffered severe loss of revenue because of the pandemic.

All small businesses including qualifying agricultural businesses (less than 500 employees) and nonprofit organizations in the United States are eligible for this loan. Following are some highlights.

  • Loan amount
    • 24 months of expenses or maximum of $500k for loans starting April 6th, 2021
    • Provision for loan increase in case for prior approved cases
  • Terms
    • Maximum term of 30 years
    • 75% APR for Businesses & 2.75% APR for Nonprofits
    • No pre-payment penalty
  • Funds can be used for
    • Working capital
    • Operating expenses like heath care, rent, utilities, servicing debt etc.
  • Collateral is required for loans above $25000
  • The loan is NOT forgivable

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

This is a grant, not a loan, designed to rescue venue operators that were in operation as of February 29th, 2020. The grant can be equal to 45% of gross revenue up to a maximum of $10 million. You must be one of the following to be eligible for this grant:

  • Live venue operators or promoters
  • Theatrical producers
  • Live performing arts organization operators
  • Specific museum, zoo, or aquarium operators
  • Motion picture theater operators
  • Talent representatives
  • A Business entity owned by one of the above

These funds can be used as working capital, running payroll and to take care of fixed expenses including marketing expenses.

IMPORTANT: Venue operators who have availed PPP will have this grant reduced by the loan amount.

Resource

SBA Debt Relief

SBA is authorized to pay six months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all 7(a), 504, and Microloans reported in regular servicing status (excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans). This debt relief to borrowers was originally dependent on the loan being fully disbursed prior to September 27, 2020 and does not apply to loans made under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Refer the official website for more details: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/sba-debt-relief

Resource

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

This will be offered as a direct grant to restaurants and other qualifying food businesses. More information is awaited and expected within the next 7-10 days. The administration is hopeful to start accepting applications within the month of April 2021.

Community Navigator Pilot Program

This program is designed for SBA to engage with states, local governments, SBA resource partners, and other organizations in targeted outreach for small businesses underserved communities.

SBA is implementing this initiative by building upon its extensive network of resource partners across the country. To ensure the Community Navigator Pilot Program reaches communities across the country in the coming months, SBA will soon be announcing a new grant funding opportunity that will be open to proposals from SBA resource partners, states, tribes, units of local governments, and other nonprofit organizations.

Resource

References

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5 Small Business Challenges That (Truly) Matter

When I started working on the concept of Vision Fulfill Digital Consulting, one the first obvious questions I wanted answer was “What problem will I solve for my clients?” Like in most cases these days, my quest to find answers started with a Google search. Search results came back with a bunch of blogs listing various small business challenges & problems.

Some articles were remarkably interesting & informative reads. But most were written with the goal of projecting what the writer or publishing platform had to offer to small businesses. Almost none of them were written from a small business owner’s point of view.

I have tried to put together a list of 5 challenges that truly matter to a small business and what a small business owner can overcome effectively. After all, we should only focus on what we can control and take everything else in our stride!

Cash Flow

Maintaining a positive cash flow is the biggest ask for a small business owner. It is also the most important factor that makes a difference between success and failure for small businesses. A big number of businesses shut shop not because they are making losses but because they do not have cash to pay their bills.

Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the lifeblood of business." —Sir Richard Branson

The simplest definition of cash flow is “The difference between money coming in and money going out in any accounting period.” I prefer a 30-day accounting period so I can track cash flow monthly.

Overcome this challenge

  • When starting a business, have enough cash to cover first 6 months of your expenses.
  • Maintain a positive Operating Cash Flow (OCF) – OCF is the cash generated by a business through regular business activity without any external financing. A positive operating cash flow mean that the business is self-sustaining and is an ideal situation for any business.
  • Stack away spare cash equal to 3-6 months of your expenses and call it Contingency Cash Flow. There cannot be a more relevant time to talk about and prepare for contingencies.
  • For businesses dealing in good, nothing eats into your positive OCF faster than an inefficient supply chain or high levels of inventory. Invest in Supply Chain Management tools & teams.
  • Try not to get ahead of yourself when facing a growth opportunity. Consider your cash flow before overcommitting.

Customers Acquisition & Retention

Small business owners have limited time with modest budgets and fewer resources at their disposal. They can end up neglecting customer acquisition & retention without foreseeing that it can be the start of the end.

Overcome this challenge

Acquiring New Customers

  • You cannot cater to everyone with limited time, budget & resources. Develop crisp & clearly defined Buyer Personas and strive to serve them the best.
  • Never loose view of the problem that you solve for your customer. Always keep stick to that solution in your communication & messaging.
  • Commit 50% of your time towards fuelling your sales funnel with new leads. Remember only a handful of them will convert into real business. But you need them all at the top to acquire a handful.

Retaining Existing Customers

  • Quality is your best relationship manager and there is no replacement to it. Strive for 100% customer satisfaction.
  • Your customer is your best advocate so listen more than you speak through your communication & messaging.
  • Always treat your customers with Compassion. It will never go unnoticed or unrewarded.

In a nutshell, always Delight your customer by giving more than he expects through your quality, service levels, messaging & communication.

Well done is better than well said." —Benjamin Franklin

Innovation is also important. You may not have the bandwidth to invest in research & development. But continue to innovate your value proposition, service & quality for your customers.

Hiring Talent

Building a capable & dedicated team is a major challenge for small business owners.

The challenge is to first identify candidates who are not only capable & dedicated but also as compassionate and flexible as you because of the demands of a small business. The next challenge is to convince them to take the risk of joining a small business and then retaining them with the company.

Overcome this challenge

When Hiring

Build a core team for which you should:

  • Look for capabilities & virtues beyond the degrees, certificates & resumes.
  • See how the candidate can positively impact your business. Hire someone with the biggest potential impact.
  • Ensure that the candidate’s persona is in sync with the values of your business.
  • Do not be afraid to hire multiple times for a single position in your core team. Keep going till you find the perfect fit.

Retain & Nurture Your Core Team

  • Once you have a core team, nurture it to let it grow.
  • Be a Leader and not a boss – do not threaten or be threatened, instead give them guidance, freedom, authority & sometimes a chance to learn from their own mistakes.
  • Just like a happy customer, your core team can be your best advocate & mouthpiece when you need to grow your team.

Brand Building

As operations take over Brand Building, just like business development, can take a back seat because of limited resources & budgets. But that can throw a business into an ever-growing cycle of obsolescence.

Overcome this challenge

  • Nothing builds a brand better than Satisfied Customers & Fulfilled Employees so you should be on the correct path if those are addressed effectively.
  • Mean what you say and say the same thing every time – honesty & consistency in messaging & communication can contribute amazingly towards building a robust brand.
  • Contribute as a brand towards your industry or society in general. It does not have to pinch the pocket; you can contribute your time or a skill or your intellect.

It comes down to how your customer experiences the brand – and how that brand makes a person feel." —Alex Allwood, CEO of The Holla Agency

Scaling

This is a happy challenge to have but a double-edged sword. It is common for businesses of all sizes to fail during a growth cycle. But small businesses have limited resources to fall back on and are more prone to this syndrome.

Overcome this challenge

  • Do not overcommit or get a head of yourself – choose your opportunities wisely. Nothing sucks like letting go of a juicy opportunity, but overcommitting will not get you anywhere. Always weigh an opportunity with following in the backdrop.
    • Cash Flow – Make sure you have enough cash to cover any increased expenses during the growth phase.
    • Supply Chain – Make sure your supply chain is capable of handling increased demands.
    • Exit Cost – Make sure you can bear what you will lose if it fails in the worst case.
  • Quality – Always ensure that your quality levels are not compromised because of a growth spurt. Quality should always supersede growth. Poor quality will not get you new customers and you may let go of existing ones.
  • Customer Service – Growth should not come at the cost of customer satisfaction. A dissatisfied customer is too high a cost for any opportunity.

Government regulations, taxations, healthcare are some common small business challenges but do not find a place on my list. That is because:

  • They are either beyond your control and so worth little active effort.
  • All you must do is to remain on the correct side of law.
  • It is best left to the experts.

So, my approach is to engage a capable service partner who can align with your values and take care of all legal requirements while you focus on the actual job at hand.

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