Follow the Leaders
You heard it here first: Your fears and concerns are valid, and the anxiety and stress about keeping your business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic is legitimate and understandable.
If there were easy answers, or answers at all right now, you would most likely be getting them from all different angles. The entire country is in a state of limbo, and not many people thrive on uncertainty especially when it relates to the well-being of employees, businesses, and families.
How is it possible that there is so much demand for your product or service at the moment, but you are not even able to sell it? Though bankers are not therapists, it is appropriate to tell you that IT IS OK TO FEEL ANXIOUS RIGHT NOW!
So what is the best approach to deal with your banking partner and anxieties around the health of your company during a time like this? Below are a few points that might help you work through this time with your banker:
Very simply, pick up the phone and call your banker (who probably should have proactively already called you by now anyway). The bank wants to hear from you.
As bankers, we often believe that we know exactly what is going on in the market. And while we are sometimes correct, we may not know exactly what is going on with YOUR market. We want to hear about your struggles, concerns, and outlook.
And make sure to interview your banker as well. Like you, our worlds are changing very rapidly, and guidance from Federal regulators is pouring in daily. It is important for you to have an honest conversation with your banker about their desire to continue to work through customer cash flow challenges, the bank’s ability to handle a downturn, and if new lending is a possibility. Though answers might change quickly, continuing to have an honest relationship may help to assuage any fears that both parties are having.
With the ever-changing environment in which we are living today, this might be the hardest action item. Determining a plan with so many unanswered questions can feel like trying to hit a moving target, but it is important to do the best you can.
Plans may include such things as understanding how to reduce costs if revenues fall, liquidating assets to maintain cash in an effort to fund operations, or identifying capital sources that will negate incurred losses.
From a banking standpoint, it could be beneficial to speak with your banker about the opportunity to temporarily move to interest-only monthly payments that relieve debt service obligations in the near-term, deferred payments for a specified period of time, or interest rate relief for an interim timeframe. Many well-capitalized banks are willing and able to work with the customers that are feeling the pains of the COVID-19 outbreak, and Federal regulators are currently encouraging collaboration between banks and businesses to help borrowers adjust to changes.
Both small and large business owners are in the process of searching for alternatives to supplement declining revenues related to the pandemic. From automakers manufacturing necessary ventilators to restaurants moving to takeout menus and even breweries and distilleries producing hand sanitizer, businesses are pivoting to alternative opportunistic revenue streams.
This might be the right time to find an alternative for your business and your workforce to further operations. From a financing standpoint, it could be a good time to visit the Small Business Administration’s website (www.sba.gov) to understand lending options that are not readily available by your bank but can provide temporary, flexible financing relief.
Keep communicating with your banker. Just because you had an initial call or meeting does not mean that you have to stop there. As the slowdown continues, your banker will be very interested in how you are handling the downturn and, hopefully, how the bank can help. It will also be important for you to hear bank and regulatory updates as they are available.
There may not seem like easy answers to all of our questions right now, but try to remember that your financial institution is a partner in your company. While we share in your present anxieties and uncertainties, many bankers want to work with business partners to weather the economic storm related to COVID-19.
Like us, understand that your stress is real but that frequent communication with your banker can help to establish the right plan for withstanding the pandemic while setting you up for future viability. Banks and businesses should always remember that we cannot win without each other.
About the Author
Matt Paciocco is a Senior Vice President, Commercial Banker with Virginia Commonwealth Bank (VCB). Matt is passionate about working in a community bank that enables him to build strong relationships with his business customers and the surrounding communities. Matt has spent the last 15 years specializing in commercial banking and has positioned himself as a leading community banker in Richmond.
Editor’s note: Content provided by Virginia Commonwealth Bank (VCB). VCB is a Sponsor of VA Council of CEOs.
During the COVID-19 global health crisis, we are forced to adapt to a new way of life. Here’s how to start thinking strategically to best navigate through these uncharted waters.
You need to understand the financial implications and to act quickly. What happens if business reduction lasts for weeks? Or longer? Consider various “what-if” scenarios. Inquire about your business interruption insurance. Do you have an existing policy with dread disease coverage? Be sure to review the following:
With companies quickly moving to remote work environments, hackers are aggressively looking to exploit any flaws. Be diligent and don’t click on links from unknown sources. It is not too late to talk to your broker about getting insurance for cyber security or social engineering policies.
This should include policies regarding:
Employees need to set their own schedules and be able to deal with different distractions (e.g. kids, phone calls, etc.). Don’t underestimate the change and potential impact. Clearly communicate who employees should call with questions or issues, during and after work hours.
In these uncertain times, you may need to be creative. This will mean different things for different companies. Consider unique ways you can make your business stronger.
How can your business adapt to offer services digitally? For example, on-line teaching classes, or offering webinars. The goal is to keep your business top of mind.
To allow for accounting data to be easily accessible, consider cloud-based accounting systems. In cloud computing, users access software applications remotely though the Internet. Remember to ensure adequate security protection.
Unless you have been asked not to work at all (e.g., some non-exempt positions), keep working, most likely from home. Utilize smart tools and practice healthy habits. Limit social engagement and leverage technology.
Password protection and current anti-virus systems are critical for remote devices, even if they are owned by the employee and not controlled by the company.
Companies need to consider whether remote users will be able to print or store any confidential information on their laptops or Home PCs. Tools are available that can prevent downloading or printing of any information from personal devices.
There are many software options to choose from; some are paid services, but several are free. Here are examples of systems that are commonly used:
About Warren Whitney
Warren Whitney is a results-oriented management consulting firm based in Richmond, Virginia who is dedicated to serving privately held and nonprofit organizations in four areas: Strategy, Finance/Accounting, HR, and IT.
These are unprecedented and turbulent times. COVID-19 will pass and organizations will need to have the right plans and people in place to continue to survive and thrive. Focus on these four things when navigating crisis times in business:
If social distancing is keeping candidates from touring the office or facility, make a short video. Candidates will appreciate being able to virtually connect to your working space. COVID-19 will pass and organizations will need to have the right people on board. Engage candidates even if you have to delay a final decision.
About the Author
Chip Bowman is a Managing Director responsible for developing Fahrenheit’s business in Virginia and providing clients with customized strategies for solving their challenges and growing their business. He is skilled in leading operations and finance functions across numerous public and private industries including banking, healthcare, family business, education, manufacturing, and real estate development. He has a demonstrated ability to drive growth based on strategic vision and management of daily operations through process improvement, performance management, systems building, financial initiatives, and policy design and implementation. Chip also has experience in turnaround situations for middle market clients.
Dear VACEOs Community,
Your Board of Directors met in a called meeting via videoconference. I shared with them what I am hearing from many of our Roundtables and Forums. Most groups are meeting more frequently for shorter timeframes and have found this support to be vital.
The board and I are very clear on our highest priority. That is to continue to serve our mission (connecting CEOs for learning and growth) by facilitating learning and connection for our members and sponsors — immediately and in any way we can.
Here are some of the things we are working on to serve you:
Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VACEOs
These are trying times, especially for leaders. I know that we will all rise to the challenge. And I am optimistic because we are better equipped than most because of the power of our peer community. Please reach out if we can help in any way.
Virginia Council of CEOs
Dear VACEOs Members and Sponsors,
We have been closely monitoring the situation with COVID-19. At this time of uncertainty, community is more important than ever. While in-person meetings are curtailed, it is vital that we keep meeting, keep learning, and keep supporting one another.
We’ve found video conferencing to be a great way to keep these vital conversations going. Last week I shared video-meeting guidelines and resources with roundtable/forum leaders. Our staff is going entirely remote after today, but we are equipped to stay connected and working.
We are working to continue our mission – connecting CEOs for learning and growth – including finding ways to connect our members who are not currently in a roundtable. The Board of Directors will meet this week to discuss contingency plans for upcoming events and most importantly, continue the conversation about other ways we can serve our members during this time of disruption. See below my signature for the current status of upcoming events.
We will share our plans with you as they unfold. In the meantime, if you have any ideas for how we can serve you and our community, please reach out to me. We are here to serve.
Virginia Council of CEOs
Current Event and Meeting Status – March 16, 2020
March 19 – Finance Committee is CANCELLED
March 19 – Called Board of Directors Meeting via videoconference is ON
March 26 – Quarterly Luncheon is CANCELLED
March 31 – Advisory Board Meeting is pending. May be held via videoconference
April 1 & 2 – Get to Know VACEOs events will be moved to videoconference
April 22 – Board of Directors Meeting will be held either in person or videoconference
April 29 to May 1 – Annual CEO Retreat is pending. A determination will be made by March 25.