Tips for small business owners looking to make a strong recovery in 2021
Last year was a challenging one for Chicagoland small businesses, each of which faced its own unique obstacles brought on by the coronavirus. Despite these challenges, Bank of America's most recent Small Business Owner Report found entrepreneurs remained resilient, embracing flexibility as they navigate an evolving and uncertain business landscape.
Chicagoland entrepreneurs adapted their operations, which enabled 4 in 5 to remain open throughout shutdowns, according to the study. Many also found creative ways to reinvent themselves, with more than one-third shifting to a digital strategy and 35% shifting their primary revenue stream entirely. All the while, Chicagoland entrepreneurs looked for ways to give back, donating time, products and services to their communities.
As we settle into 2021, Chicago-area business owners' optimism is on full display, with many anticipating a strong post-pandemic environment. Seven in 10 are confident there will be greater support for small businesses, and more than half feel better equipped to handle potential future setbacks.
While it may be challenging to predict what exactly our path to economic recovery looks like, small businesses will play a significant role. To support this vision, small business owners can take three steps to reignite growth and plan for financial success this year.
Re-evaluate your business plan
Due to changing landscapes and environments, it's critical to adjust your business plan, mapping out key areas of need and identifying potential threats that may have emerged during the pandemic. Ask yourself, how did your business track last year against the projections? Are there successes from the second half of 2020 you can build on? What solutions worked best for your business as you managed the impact of the coronavirus? As we're still in a time of uncertainty, err on the side of caution and ensure your plan allows room for adjustment.
Explore your financing options
In Chicagoland 64% of entrepreneurs applied (or plan to apply) for one or more loans to address the impact of the pandemic. As you build your business plan, consider how various lending options align with your operational goals and payroll needs, two key areas of need as identified by business owners. With PPP applications opening back up and interest rates at historic lows, there might be some valuable opportunities. What goals have you identified in your business plan that require additional financing? Would a boost in headcount drive top-line sales? Are any structural or digital enhancements needed in the coming year? Once you identify your goals for 2021 and beyond, sit down with your small business banker to determine the right financing solution for your situation.
Businesses across the country have had to adjust aspects of their operations due to the public health crisis, including enhancing sanitation practices and shifting from brick-and-mortar to online operations in the name of safety. As we continue to adhere to social distancing requirements, consider banking digitally to limit in-person interactions and free up time to remain focused on running your business. Connect with your banker on what digital options are available to you. For example, Bank of America offers a full suite of small business digital capabilities, including Cash Flow Monitor, a no-cost dashboard that provides an easy way to manage, track and project your business cash flow.
The coronavirus pandemic created unprecedented obstacles for small business owners, challenging them to find new and innovative ways to meet the needs of their businesses, employees, customers and communities. When optimism intersects the practical advice above, business owners are best positioned to meet whatever opportunities and challenges the new year may bring.
• Dana Roppo is a senior vice president, small business banker manager for Bank of America in Chicagoland.