Female small business owner standing in front of her clothing store

The Guide to Rebuilding Your Small Business After the Pandemic

10+ min read • Apr 08, 2020 • Jesse Sumrak

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Eventually, this will all end. The “new normal” will fade away, and we’ll go back to “business as usual.”

However, somethings will never be the same. Lives have been lost, jobs obliterated, companies bankrupted—it’s going to take a while to pick up the pieces. But while the future may look bleak for your small business, the ball is in your court now. 

Will you rebuild and come out stronger than ever? Or will you wallow in “what could have been” and sink further into the coronavirus mire? The choice is yours.

Remember, you’re not alone. The coronavirus crisis has impacted businesses big and small, industries near and far, citizens rich and poor. No country has escaped unscathed. Everyone is recovering.

If you’d like to rebuild your small business, then this guide is for you. Below, we cover all the steps you need to take to get your business back on track. From redoing your business plan to reclaiming your customers to securing the capital to make it all happen, we’re breaking it all down step-by-step.

SBA Coronavirus Loans to Help You Right Now

Before we talk about rebuilding, we need to make sure your business survives the pandemic. It takes money to make money, and the whole country is hurting for capital right now. If your small business is desperate for some cash to stay afloat, consider these SBA coronavirus loans:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): These loans help small businesses retain employees throughout and after the COVID-19 crisis. PPP loans can be up to $10 million and may be partially forgivable.
  • Economic Injury and Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Loan Advance: EIDLs are low-interest loans up to $2 million that help small businesses pay for expenses that could have been satisfied had the disaster not occurred.
  • Emergency Economic Injury Grant (EEIG): Under the EIDL program, companies that qualify may apply for an emergency cash advance for up to $10,000. Money from this advance used on payroll-related expenses will be converted into a grant, meaning you won’t have to repay it.
  • SBA Disaster Relief: This program provides relief to borrowers who already have non-disaster SBA 7(a) loans by covering all loan payments for the next 6 months (including principal, interest, and fees). Businesses that take out new loans before September 25, 2020, can also claim this benefit.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans: Small businesses affected by COVID-19 that already have a relationship with an SBA Express Lender qualify for an SBA Express Bridge Loan. These loans are up to $25,000 and have maximum terms of 7 years. You can use this immediate financing while you wait on your EIDL.

Time to Redo Your Business Plan

Due to COVID-19, most small business plans have become outdated aspirations. If the pandemic has rendered your plan obsolete (or if you never had one in the first place, *tsk tsk), it’s time to start fresh.

We’ve outlined the entire process in more detail in our Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Business Plan, but here’s a quick list for reference:

  1. Define Your Business’s Current Situation: What’s broken? What needs fixing? What’s going well? Take some time to describe your company’s current state. This would be a good time to reevaluate your SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
  2. Determine Your Goals—Don’t Forget the BHAG!: Your previous goals might be unattainable now, and that’s okay. What’s going to be your new 12-month, 3-year, and 5-year goals? How quickly do you plan to recover and get back to business as usual? Oh, and don’t forget your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)—this one might not change from pre-crisis to post-crisis.
  3. Analyze the State of Your Industry and Customers: Are there gaps left by the coronavirus epidemic that your business can fill? Do your customers need a little bit of space, or do they need urgent attention? Revisit your customer persona so you can have better empathy for your clients and provide them the services they need right now.
  4. Investigate Your Indirect and Direct Competitors: How are your competitors doing? Did the pandemic hit some of them harder than others? Remember, healthy competition is good for business. Think of ways you can team up or work together to keep everyone going strong.
  5. Strategize How You Will Make Your Goals a Reality: Now, it’s time to make a detailed plan for how you’re going to make your business dreams come true. If you plan on reclaiming all your lost clients, how are you going to make it happen? Where are you going to find the financing to fund your rebuilding projects?
  6. Transform Your Knowledge into the Business Plan: Put all your answers, tactics, and knowledge together into a formalized plan with everything from your executive summary to your financial strategy. By maintaining one source of truth, you can seamlessly keep your entire team synced on the direction and focus of the business.

The rest of this article will help you as you build out your new, revised business plan. Next, we cover the 10 steps to begin rebuilding your company.

10 Steps to Begin the Post-Pandemic Rebuilding Process

Rebuilding is going to be hard. It’s going to take time, money, blood, sweat, and tears. But you’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

Remember, it’s not all bad either. There are some significant silver linings to this pandemic that the optimists will seize, and the pessimists will ignore. No, nobody should celebrate the lives lost, the jobs eliminated, or the devastated economy. However, some major bright sides should be recognized, too—we’re going to do our best to highlight those, as well.

Once the pandemic begins to peter out, social-distancing orders relax, and businesses return to work, here are 10 rebuilding steps you should take.

1. Secure Necessary Capital

You should start this step as soon as possible (that’s why it’s #1).

Right now, focus on securing the capital you need to survive. We have outlined all the resources at your disposal in this COVID-19 financial relief section. These loans will keep your business’s doors open by paying the bills and making payroll, so get the capital you need as soon as possible.

Keep in mind, SBA coronavirus loans are intended to be used right now to help your business stay afloat. They’ll help you maintain your payroll and pay your existing bills, but they aren’t going to help fund your other post-pandemic business operations.

After the survival period is over, inventory will need to be restocked, orders fulfilled, marketing campaigns reactivated, and more—business as usual. Except your cash flow is going to be stretched thin. That’s why you’ll need to start looking for new financing to support your recovery and growth.

Unfortunately, lenders are a bit cautious about extending new loans at the moment. Dan Davis, a Lendio franchise owner in Seattle, is seeing that firsthand. “We already had one of our lenders say they will not be funding businesses in Washington state until further notice,” Dan said. “If a client is on the fence of whether to get financing today, I would encourage them to get it while it is available.

If you need help securing the right kind of financing, skip on down to the last section in this guide: The Best Post-Pandemic Small Business Financing.

Silver Lining: The whole country has come together to support small businesses. The federal government, state and city governments, tech companies, nonprofits, and more are providing financial assistance to keep small businesses going.

2. Rebuild Your Dream Team

If you laid off employees to keep the business from going under, it’s time to rebuild your staff. You’re going to need to find, hire, train, and retain a new team. You’ll likely be able to get previous members of your staff back, but some will have moved on.

It’ll take money, and it won’t happen overnight, but you’ll eventually rebuild your team. A record 10 million filed for unemployment in just 2 weeks—unlike pre-coronavirus, workforce supply greatly exceeds demand.

People need jobs, and your business needs people. Start doing your initial research now so you can recruit the top talent when the time is right.

Silver Lining: Conflicting role responsibilities can lead to costly deficiencies. As time goes on, you may have too many experts in one talent and too few in another—these overlapping skill sets limit certain employees. Now, with a fresh slate, you can hire for precisely what your business needs.

3. Reclaim Your Customers

With more than 30 states closing all nonessential businesses, customers are going without their favorite products and services. When these closures lift, you’re going to need to act fast, reopen, and reclaim your customers. 

For example, gym-goers will need to return to the gym. If you’re slow to reopen your doors, your former clients may sign a contract with another gym. 

It’s nothing personal, but customers are anxious to return to normal life, and they might be willing to get a haircut with someone new rather than allowing their long flowing locks to run wild.

Be ready to reactivate your marketing campaigns and execute your communications strategy. Communicate by email, text message, social media, blog posts, physical signs on your storefront, flyers—anything and everything to keep your customers updated.

A big step in rebuilding your business will be reclaiming your loyal clients. You’ll need this predictable income to sustain your business’s recovery. Make your customers one of your top priorities.

Silver Lining: This crisis may have exposed new customers to your business. Individuals trying to support their local economy may try your business, and they may become regulars even after the pandemic ends.

4. Restock Your Inventory

When things started turning ugly, you may have sold your inventory at a discount to get the necessary cash to pay the bills. Or, if you’re in the food and beverage industry, you may have decided to donate all your goods before they spoiled. Regardless, once you return to work, you’ll need to restock the shelves and rebuild your inventory.

Keep in mind that your customers have likely been going without your product or service for weeks or months now. When you reopen your doors, you may have an initial influx as customers stock up on goods they’ve missed out on. To avoid turning away clients, you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient stock from the get-go.

It’ll be tricky to stock your shelves if you typically fund your inventory with sales. This situation is where a bit of financing comes in handy. A business line of credit, short term loan, or merchant cash advance could provide you with the ready-to-use cash you need to resupply before the doors open.

Silver Lining: If you’re like most small businesses, then your backroom gets a little more cluttered year after year. Now, you have a fresh slate—no old inventory taking up valuable space. Get your systems and processes in order so you can keep it that way.

5. Cut Wasted Expenses

COVID-19 taught everyone what’s truly essential and what’s not. Well, maybe a lifetime supply of toilet paper isn’t essential, but you get the point.

Small businesses learned how to get lean, cut costs, and operate on the bare minimum when times got hard. Once your doors reopen, continue with that frugal mindset and watch your profit margins soar.

Did you implement a work-from-home policy during the pandemic? How did that work out for you? If it was a positive experience, maybe you can reduce some expensive real estate expenses and encourage working from home.

With your business closed for weeks, take a look at your utility bill. Pretty low, right? Of course, when you reopen, you’ll turn the lights back on and get the HVAC running at a comfortable temperature again—but look for ways you can save with energy efficiency. 

Does the light in the backroom need to be on if nobody is in there? Could the store temperature be adjusted after hours to save money? Are your lightbulbs efficient? Look for wins big and small to save a pretty penny month after month.

Silver Lining: COVID-19 taught us how to do more with less. Continue with your newfound frugal mindset to cut costs and save cash.

6. Start Diversifying Your Products and Services

This pandemic made us realize a strictly eat-in brunch cafe won’t survive without some innovation. Stores, not just restaurants, need to look at how they can diversify their offerings to be more adaptable to change.

Can you offer delivery? Can you take your business to your customers? Can you sell online? Can you take workloads off the desktop and into the cloud?

Here are some examples of how small businesses got downright clever to keep their doors open during the pandemic:

  • Grassroots Fitness Project operates in one of the US coronavirus hotspots: NYC. To help customers get their sweat on at home, they started offering live-streamed fitness classes. But, unlike other gyms and yoga studios doing the same thing, they decided to mix things up and launch a new virtual-based class for kids.
  • Longmont Public House, a small Colorado establishment, had to adjust their business model when the governor prohibited eating in restaurants. They created an entirely new take-out menu (which included typical items, new family meals, and even a 5-day week of meals for kids) and topped it all off with optionable delivery.
  • Before NYC closed all nonessential businesses, James Corbett Studio got smart with their offerings. They started doing house calls for hair appointments to help with social distancing orders. Once that was prohibited, they shifted again to offer DIY color kits and video counseling to help clients color their hair at home.

Once you can return to business as usual, consider keeping some of your alternative solutions. For example, most adults probably enjoy getting out of the house and visiting the yoga studio, but they might enjoy the virtual kid classes from time to time to ease up their children’s busy schedules.

Silver Lining: Without the coronavirus, many small businesses would have never taken the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and offer revolutionary services. Now, you’ve proven you’re capable of adjusting on the fly and can provide out-of-the-box solutions. Keep doing it!

7. Identify Opportunities

This pandemic has been hard on everyone. There’s been a lot of change in a short amount of time, and these changes have sparked opportunities. Think of the emerging possibilities:

  • New talent is available, and they’re eagerly looking for jobs
  • Prime real estate may have been vacated
  • Product and service gaps may have arisen in your community

This isn’t about taking advantage of a pandemic (that’s just wrong). It’s about doing what’s best for your business, employees, customers, and communities.

Competitors might have gone bankrupt. No, that’s not something to celebrate, but this might be the perfect chance to grab a business acquisition loan, purchase a competitor, and rebuild the businesses—thus maintaining jobs, filling holes in the community, and accelerating your business growth.

Silver Lining: Seizing an opportunity for your business might not just benefit you—it may help other employees, businesses, and the community as a whole.

8. Remember the Lessons Learned

One day, we’ll tell our children and grandchildren what it was like to live through COVID-19. “Grocery store shelves were bare. Beaches left empty. Even the NBA closed. The NBA!” 

We need to remember the lessons learned. What went well? What didn’t? What do you regret? What are you grateful for? What would you do differently next time?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana.

Record the lessons you’ve learned from this pandemic. For example, maybe it’s a good idea to always keep a healthy stash of toilet paper at home?

Silver Lining: Challenges teach us lessons. We can either hate challenges or learn from them. Of course, nobody wants to face trials, but when we do, let’s make the most of them.

9. Give Back

To whom much is given, much will be required. 

Nonprofits, tech companies, communities, and more are uniting to keep small businesses alive. America needs small businesses to survive, so it’s not an entirely selfless act, but it’s incredible how much charity we’re seeing right now.

More citizens are buying local and supporting their small businesses, eating out more than they usually do and opting for the city store instead of Amazon. People gave to small businesses in their time of need—how are you going to give back?

Think about how you can support your community:

  • Help support a park by building a picnic area, providing benches, or even planting trees.
  • Host a free event like a live concert or kid-friendly craft night.
  • Consider supporting a local charity or cause.

You might not be in a position to give back now or anytime soon, and that’s okay—people understand. But in the future, when you’re settled and back in the groove, it’d be great to commemorate the community that helped you in your time of need.

Silver Lining: People aren’t giving because they expect something in return. People are giving because they care. This pandemic has taught us that America isn’t as polarized as it sometimes appears. When the going gets tough, we support each other.

10. Prepare for the Next Disaster

It’s easy to think “things couldn’t get worse,” but the reality is that they can. Things can get a lot worse.

Take this opportunity to start preparing for the next disaster:

  • Build a sufficient cash cushion: If your rainy day fund wasn’t adequate before, start saving more (and secure a business line of credit) to provide you the capital you’ll need.
  • Prepare alternative business plans: COVID-19 taught us that it’s not enough to have a solid plan. You need a backup plan and a backup backup plan.
  • Change your policies: Those without remote policies in place before the pandemic faced a harsh transition when businesses closed their offices. Remote work is the future, so the sooner you adopt it, the better you’ll be able to handle calamities like the coronavirus.

Silver Lining: Consider the corona crisis a not-so-gentle wake up call for something worse. That’s kind of a cynical silver lining, but so be it.

The Best Post-Pandemic Small Business Financing

Now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to secure the financing to make it happen. Make sure you follow the 10-step rebuilding process first. Without a plan, you won’t know how much cash you’ll need or how fast you’ll need it. A comprehensive financing plan will help you secure the capital you need from the get-go instead of dashing back and

forth to lenders for new loans.

There are plenty of non-COVID-19-related loans that can help you rebuild your business. Let’s take a look at some of your top financing options and how each can help you in the rebuilding process.

SBA Loan

SBA COVID-19 disaster loans aren’t the only kind of SBA loans. There are still SBA 7(a), 504, and Express loans. If you need to finance aspects of your business beyond the scope of COVID-19 requirements, an SBA loan is still going to be one of your best options.

SBA loans have low interest rates, long repayment terms (up to 30 years), and large loan amounts. Use an SBA loan to buy land, purchase equipment, or even refinance your existing debt—these loans can cover practically any nook and cranny of your business. 

Unlike the PPP and EIDL loans, traditional SBA loans are government-backed, not government-funded. This means you’ll work with a lender on the financing, and the SBA only guarantees the loan.

Business Term Loan

Business term loans are the classic way of financing your business. You can use them to fund almost any business expense. They’re flexible, stable, predictable, and oh-so powerful.

Term loans are simple: you borrow a lump sum that you pay back in consistent increments over the set borrowing period. After the pandemic, you could use a term loan to improve your business by expanding your real estate or upgrading your equipment.

Short Term Loan

A short term loan is like a term loan, just faster. You could receive funds in as little as 24 hours, but that speed comes with a price—quick loans are expensive loans.

Time is money, too. If you need immediate cash to seize an opportunity, a short term loan may be worth the extra cost.

Business Line of Credit

When you need flexible spending on your schedule, get yourself a business line of credit. A line of credit gets you access to revolving credit—you can tap into the cash whenever you want, pay the portion back, and then get instant access to the full credit line again. Plus, you only pay interest on the funds you use, not the entire credit line.

A line of credit is the perfect financing option when something like the COVID-19 crisis comes around. With it, you’ll have more ready-to-use cash to finance whatever your business needs: make payroll, pay the bills, restock the shelves, rent a delivery van, etc.

Merchant Cash Advance

When you’re still trying to push your business back up to maximum output, a merchant cash advance can get you cash now in exchange for a percentage of your future sales. A merchant cash advance provides you with quick access to capital (in as little as 24 hours), which is perfect if you’re in a bind.

This financing option is great if your credit is damaged but you can prove strong sales patterns. Merchant cash advances aren’t the cheapest financing option around, but they get you quick cash when you need it. 

Accounts Receivable Financing

When it’s time to start rebuilding, you can’t afford to let your IOUs continue collecting dust. Get quick access to working capital by trading your outstanding invoices for cold, hard cash.

You’ll lose a percentage of the sales to cover the financing fees, but you’ll get instant cash and won’t have to waste valuable time chasing down customers. The benefits of accounts receivable financing can make it well worth the cost. Plus, your credit’s not an issue—lenders will primarily look at the credit of your customers to gauge the level of risk.

Rise Like a Phoenix

America runs on small businesses (and Dunkin’). Your employees (current or future) need you. Your customers need you. Your community needs you.

It’s going to be hard, but you’re not alone—we’re here to help! 

Whether you need a PPP loan, a line of credit, or a short term loan, we’re here to help you every step of the way.

We’ve released updated loan pages for all the SBA COVID-19 loans so you can get all the essential up-to-date information you need in one reliable place. Take a look, and then use our on-page applications to start the process.

If you want more information on how this evolving pandemic is impacting small businesses (and what you can do about it), check out our new Coronavirus Resources section on the blog. It’s chock-full of guides and articles to help you navigate this tricky, challenging time.

And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, give us a call at (855) 853-6346, and one of our experts can help. We’re in this together.

The phoenix bird is a Greek mythology creature of massive size and powerful. After many years, this bird self-combusts, only to rise again from its ashes—bigger, stronger, and more beautiful.

While your business might have metaphorically burned down in flames, it has the potential to be rebuilt taller, smarter, tougher, and more efficient. If you take the right steps, you can turn this calamity around and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. 

It’s up to you now. It’s time to rise and rebuild.

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Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.