Pivot: The Essential Word of Survival for Entrepreneurs During a Pandemic

Dayana Mayfield


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Editor's note: the following is a guest submission from Susan Doktor of Money.com.

Even in a normal business climate, victory often belongs to the most flexible competitor. But these are extraordinary times. No matter what business you’re in, chances are you’re facing unprecedented challenges—challenges that change daily in response to a set of numbers that is, sadly, entirely out of our control.

Let’s face it. If ever you needed just one business move, right now, it’s the pivot. The ability to move toward an opportunity, no matter which direction it’s coming from. A knack for finding the opening—like a new revenue stream when your trusted one dries up. The capacity to hand off an entire business function, if necessary, to take pressure off of your teammates.

You’ve likely seen many businesses pivot in response to the global pandemic right in your neighborhood—upscale restaurants that are now offering takeout and online ordering, for example. Then there are the wine distributors that relied on those upscale restaurants to host events have pivoted to shipping wines directly to oenophiles and hosting Zoom tastings. You may have noticed the music apps you regularly access have changed their tunes, as well, by offering new types of  programming.

Many entrepreneurs have the vision it takes to pivot. But sometimes they lack the funding. So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get the support you need to not only modify your business right now, but also position yourself to take full advantage of the economic recovery we all hope is just around the corner.

The Paycheck Protection Program

On April 3, 2020, The Small Business Administration launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The emergency program, whose funding was renewed on July 6, 2020, may issue up to $669 billion worth of extremely low-interest loans to small businesses. The program was designed to bring laid-off or furloughed employees back on the job. Under its rules, if 75% of the funds a business borrows are used to cover payroll costs, the loans are eligible for forgiveness at the end of a 10-year term. The remaining 25% of funds must be used to cover a select list of qualifying expenses, which includes rent and utilities. So if your business has been hampered because you’ve been unable to pay your workers, a PPP loan might be a good solution for you. Or perhaps you need to pivot to hiring workers who have the technical chops to work remotely. The PPP can help you in that instance, too.

The PPP is not perfect, of course. While PPP loans are federally-funded, they’re administered through private lending institutions. The program has been criticized because many of these institutions prioritized businesses with whom they already had relationships. That leaves some startups at a disadvantage. Many entrepreneurs self-fund their ventures at the outset and may not have established credit relationships. In addition, recent reporting on the PPP points to some troubling inequities in who has actually received the lion’s share of PPP funding. Hint: it’s not your local bodega or dry cleaner.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

For gig workers who may not qualify for PPP loans, the CARES Act, passed in March, 2020, offers some special provisions. In addition to expanded eligibility and temporarily higher unemployment benefits, many gig workers are eligible for no-strings-attached grants of up to $1,000. We mention this because even a small infusion of cash can help you pivot. By way of example, Craig McConnell, a Massachusetts-based, award-winning ice sculptor and caterer jokes that his “wedding and corporate event business has melted” under the harsh light of the coronavirus. He has used his grant money to pivot to handcrafting distinctive mobile bars by purchasing hardwood slabs and other supplies. Musicians and music educators have pivoted by improving their recording and remote teaching infrastructure in order to weather the crisis. Small changes can make a big difference under difficult circumstances.

Private Small Business Loans

Maybe the pivot you envision for your business would cost more money than PPP loans offer or doesn’t qualify as an eligible under the program. Particularly if you have an established lender relationship, you may want to look into a private small business loan. While loan forgiveness is not an option, the best small business loans offer borrowers far more flexibility than those currently available through government resources. Want to pivot to from brick-and-mortar to online retailing? A small business loan can help you build the necessary infrastructure. Umpteen businesses have pivoted to employing a remote work force at considerable cost. Perhaps you need to do the same. You may even decide that manufacturing entirely new-to-you, timely products is the right move, just as some fragrance companies and spirit distilleries have switched to manufacturing hand sanitizer. With a private small business loan, you’re in the driver’s seat and can implement the changes you deem necessary to your prosperity.

What’s more, the global economic downturn has had a surprising effect on credit markets. Right now, private lenders are offering some of the lowest interest rates they have in years. The opportunity is there for entrepreneurs to not only respond to the market at hand, but also prepare themselves to compete more vigorously in the market of the future.

Author bio:

Susan Doktor is a journalist and business strategist who hails from New York City. She writes, guest-, and ghost blogs on a wide range of subjects, including finance, technology, and marketing.

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