The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented financial challenges for businesses across the world. At Swift Local Solutions we’ve seen these challenges firsthand, as we’ve worked with many small business owners who are experiencing declining revenues, operational difficulties and disruption of resources.
We know that our customers look to us for our expertise and connections to help them grow their business, even in these difficult times. As a digital media company, we maintain many external business partnerships that allow us to meet those needs with high quality service and value.
Our recent experiences have given us insight into many uniquely challenging situations. We thought it might be helpful to share some of what we’ve learned to help your business weather this challenging time.
Like us, you probably maintain many partnerships with vendors. Many small businesses can see benefits now by reviewing external partnerships and working with those partners to get support--whether financial or otherwise. Here are five steps to help you through this process.
5 Steps to Getting Support from External Business Partners
- First, it’s important to review all your business partnerships and identify those which may carry the most expense or potential for your business. Revisit the value of each relationship to help you clarify specific challenges you’re experiencing and identify some possible solutions. Be sure to review the terms of your contracts with each partner and determine what would improve your situation.
- Draft a thoughtful and respectful email requesting support due to COVID-19. Share a short general description of what has been happening and provide some examples of what support might look like. This might be a change in business strategy such as a reduction in the volume of supplies needed. Or maybe you just don’t have cash right now and need to look for a temporary cost reduction or a reduced/deferred payment schedule. Talking to your vendors about options simply opens the door to create a healthy and collaborative business arrangement that benefits you both.
- Expect many of your partners to reply directly to your email to share concern for our safety and health, let you know how their company is following best practices for safety, and ask for clarity on what specifically would help you most at this time.
- Tell them what you want, sharing your thoughts and ideas about how this will help your business. Elaborate on the nature of your situation and how events have been impacting your business. Your goal is to negotiate your way to a better situation. If you have a good partner they will be happy to discuss your needs and provide what they can.
- Hopefully, you will find partners who agree to defer payments, change terms or offer you the additional resources and support you request. Some may temporarily reduce costs given the uncertainty of future events. Some won’t reply. Don’t give up! Follow up every day, every week--whatever makes sense until you get a response, even if you eventually hear that they just can’t help you right now.
With a little bravery, time and energy, you can find an opportunity to work some magic for the specific needs of your business.
Talk about what’s happening.
It can feel more than a little uncomfortable to revisit the events that have led you to this point, let alone share with others that your business is struggling to make ends meet. Your external partners may even be in a difficult place themselves. It’s vital that you overcome your fear, evaluate your situation and advocate for the needs of your business.
Determine what you need.
The basic goal is to have more money coming in than going out. What does your partnership agreement say? Wrap your head around the costs and payment terms for each partner and determine the specifics of what you want and what you need. You’re going to be negotiating, so be ready with the plan to effectively communicate your position.
Now, tell them.
Remember these business partnerships are in place for a mutual revenue benefit. Your partners need you and you need them. If you go out of business it’s going to impact their bottom line too.
You already took the time to review your recent history, evaluated your current situation, identified your needs and prepared yourself to share. Now you are ready to tell them your story and what would help sustain your business. It’s good to request what you want--but make sure you get what you need.
Remember: your partners may be hurting too and might ask you for something in return. Perhaps you need to review your available resources before making a decision. Don’t get discouraged. Keep pressing forward until a win/win agreement is reached.