Tips On Navigating Your Business Though The Covid Economy
SEO ROCKET WEBINAR SERIES
Tips to move your business forward in the Covid economy! Four experts share actionable advice that business owners need to know in digital marketing, strategic business planning, workplace solutions and business accounting.
- Tom Veltri – Sr. Search Engine Optimization Specialist with SEO Rocket
- Mary Ann Hauser – Business Coach with Action Coach Team Hauser
- Cathy Hofknecht – Managing Partner at Neu Concepts
- Anita Kiehl-Quarles, CPA – President and Managing Partner of A. Quarles, CPA, PLLC
- Angela McAfee (Host) – Owner, Dir. of Marketing at SEO Rocket
Read the Video Transcription here
SEO Rocket Webinars Navigating Your Business Through the Covid Economy – Q & A With the Experts
Angela – Hello everyone. I hope you’re there. We are starting it’s 11:01. I thank you so much for attending today. I am Angela McAfee with SEO Rocket. We really appreciate you joining us here for our webinar on navigating the business and the Covid economy. This is our maiden voyage for our SEO Rocket webinars. So we are all in this together today, which is super exciting I hope. We have a fantastic set of Business Leaders today here on our panel. We’re going to try not to run long. But each of them are going to give you 8 to 10 minutes’ worth of information and then at the end we will have a Q & A so you can ask questions while you have us all here as a captive audience.
So, our four awesome panelists we have today here are Mary Ann Hauser with Action Coach Team Hauser Cathy Hofknecht of New Concepts. Tom Veltri with SEO Rocket my cohort and then CPA Anita Quarles CPA out of Winston Salem. We all know that money matters, so please stay tuned to hear what Anita has to say as she’s our last panelist. She’s got some great info to share with us. Our goal for this webinar was to give you actionable usable quality information that you can actually, you know, enjoy and use and apply in your businesses whether you’re an owner, a manager or employee. We wanted to make sure that you felt like you were getting your time’s worth today. So that’s our goal.
We found that studies are showing that 62 percent of small to medium businesses have unfortunately, and not surprisingly, experienced a decrease in business and revenue during the Covid economy. So we want to make sure that we can help you out and help each other as much as possible.
We have a lot to share today. I want to make sure that we have time for answers and questions at the end there. So I’m going to go ahead. Mary Ann is our first presenter.
Mary Ann Hauser – Action Coach Team Hauser https://teamhauser.actioncoach.com/
Mary Ann – I’m Mary Ann Hauser and I own the Action Coach firm in Winston-Salem. Action Coach is a global company in about 80 some odd countries and our firm is in the top 100 on the planet almost months upon months and probably in the top 10 or 15 in the United States. In Winston and we work with about 20 businesses one-on-one and I’m going to use some of the experience as I have working with those businesses to share with you what we’ve learned about how to grow your business and survive. You know, I think in one of Angela’s emails you said it’s about surviving and thriving and that’s hopefully what we’re going to give you some resources to do.
So today I’m going to talk about how and why it’s so important to not look back. But we’re going to use some cool tools and I want everyone who’s participating to do me a favor and go to up at the top of the screen here you see menti.com. Please take out your phones and go to menti.com and I promise you this will be kind of fun. Once you are there, I want you to put in the code 478792 and I’m going to give you a minute to get that all done and when the panelists think they’re ready I’m going to use that as a cue that everybody else is ready and there should be a question there, “Have you used Mentimeter before?”
So we’ve got one person has used it, great, so you’re going to be a pro at this. Two people have used it. We’ve got eight people voting. You know, a lot of times not everyone will vote, but we’re going to give this a couple of minutes. This is just our test so that we learn how to use Mentimeter. Okay, we’ve got 10 folks that haven’t used it. And down in the bottom right it shows you how many folks have voted so far. So that’s a good test.
What I’m going to do now is just go to the next slide and this is an important question for all of the panelists, so we kind of get a feel for where people are. So if you think about your business, “Have you been in fact affected by Covid-19?” not infected, please. Negatively, positively, or is your business about the same? Let’s just get a feel for the folks who are on the call.
Some people who have been positively affected have actually been a little reluctant to share that because they’re feeling guilty. Don’t let it. If you feel guilty, if you have been positively affected, hopefully you’ll be able to be the folks who hire lots of folks on the back end if this. OK, so out of the 16 people who look like they’re voting, unfortunately we have a much higher level of negatively affected. I probably should have put another graphic in here to ask what industries you’re in because it does, you know, you’ll get different skews based on different industries.
So, you know, we are at least for our business, we’re four and a half months and counting into the pandemic, and if I think about it, what’s that moment in time when it finally hit you then something happened? I can actually remember back to when I was a very small child when Kennedy died, and you know when the Challenger exploded, you know, there’s those pivotal moments in your life that you can close your eyes and remember.
Our team and our office happens to be nestled between two lovely cocktail lounges and we were getting ready on March 15th, or March 17th rather, to go have a St. Patty’s Day cocktail. In fact Burke Street Irish Pub here had started to play some Irish music and at about 4:30 we were packing up to go down and as a team go have a glass of Irish whiskey to celebrate. As we got the front of them, they both closed their doors. They had just gotten word from the governor that the bars had to shut down. That’s a moment in time for me when somebody says, “When did this pandemic start for you?” That’s the day it started for me and for my business. Within a week or two, maybe even less, we decided that we were going to work from home to be safe. And then the very next thing we did is we put together a planning workshop for all the businesses to help them figure out how do we plan to get through the next three months with this pandemic affecting our business.
What we’ve come to learn is that, right now, we should have less importance on long-term planning and more importance on short-term planning. That three to five year strategic plan, if you were to sit down and write it right now, we believe it’s a waste of time. What we do need to do is have a plan that’s going to carry us two to three months out and it’s really important that we have weekly goals and KPIs, which are Key Performance Indicators, that we track.
On a call that we had this morning, we even talked about the importance of having those key performance indicators, somebody said, “If I can just get 15 leads this week, it’ll help me get back on track.” Then, let’s take those goals to break them down into daily goals because trying to achieve 15 might seem overwhelming, but trying to achieve three in a day can sometimes be a whole lot more manageable, and you can plan for that.
You know in the virtual new world as business owners communication is more vital than ever. We have to have more team meetings. We have at least one every Monday morning for about an hour and a half to two hours with our team, but we want to not only just talk about work. We have all lost connection with human touch and with physical connection with the people that were used to seeing all the time. So make sure that we’re not only sharing about what we’re doing, but we’re sharing about what we’re feeling.
It’s amazing how many of my clients are saying their employees that used to be really great employees are just off, because I think stress is affecting them, even when they’re not even thinking about it. You know, anxiety is at a higher level than it’s ever been even if the work they’re doing isn’t stressful. It’s just because things don’t feel like they used to feel. So celebrate the things that do seem normal.
I went to the street or outdoor dining event in downtown Winston and it felt fabulous, and we could couldn’t wait to take pictures and get it out there, so that we know that people are still doing things that are normal. I think more and more people have been taking advantage of our local state parks and going hiking and going on getaways and staying in North Carolina and getting to the beach. But when you’re doing that, please celebrate it, and celebrate it with your team as well because those normal things, actually, as we celebrate them take away some of the anxiety.
As business owners, catch people doing things right, even if they’re at home. You know if you’re working virtually find things that you can do where people are making a little bit of an extra effort.
We all know that social media is really important for getting, you know for understanding what’s happening in our community, and for getting information about how to behave, but there’s a whole lot of negative on there, so please snooze the negative people. I’m even snoozing family members more often than I ever thought I would.
But encourage dialogue and one of the things that we do is we ask people to share what’s your high for the day, or your biggest achievement for the day, and what was your low for the day. We find that helping other people get over their lows is actually motivating for the people who are helping as well as it is for the people who have asked for help.
Then send gifts. Send note cards and greetings when you can. You know, because you know, that connection is so important.
But what I want to know when you opened up I said there is no going back. There is no normal. That’s why the rear view mirror you’ve all heard this is small and the dashboard is, you know, the front windscreen on your car is large. Speed is happening at a rate that we have never seen, you know, speed of change is happening at a rate that we’ve never seen.
If you think about the frog in the pot, you know, if you put a frog in cold water and you warm it up slightly, you can cook that frog and he’ll be pretty comfortable till the end. But if you put a frog in boiling water, he jumps out. This change happens so fast for us, it was like that by boiling water and we keep tending to want to look back to go back to normal.
But right now at least for the next two to three, maybe even longer years there is not going to be that normal. Even if Covid-19 was cured miraculously tomorrow, we’re not ever going to go back to where we were. Things have changed. The way people communicate has changed. Whole industries have changed.
So if we look at what are the industries that are changing. One of my clients is a wedding photographer and wedding videographer and he has several crews. They were completely booked for the entire summer. In a matter of two weeks, he had 90% of his weddings canceling on him, or postponing on him. His revenue stream completely sucked up. I mean it just, it was gone. So, he shifted and we work together to put together marketing strategies to get out to corporations and businesses who needed better communication now that we’re in Covid. He was able to completely restructure an entirely new crew going out and doing corporate communication videos. Now when things go back to normal, his business will actually be double the size because he’ll have a wedding division and a corporate division.
There are more opportunities for growth and I want us to recognize those. The people who sit on the box, they’re sitting on a box and waiting for the world to change, and waiting for things to come back to normal are the ones who are going to struggle.
Somebody told me a story this morning that there was the man who sat on a box is whole life saying I wish I had more money, I wish I had more money, and finally somebody said, “Did you ever look under that box?” There was a million dollars sitting under there, but he never got up to make that move so, you know, what are those opportunities for growth?
Many businesses are also finding new ways to operate with a tighter budget. You know, a retail store that used to have 12 sales people on staff every day here in town, now because of the restrictions of the number of people, they figured out how to operate with three sales people rotating, and that allows them to have more patrons in the store. They’re operating in a way that they found things that can streamline their business so, might not be the best thing when it comes to employment, but when they come out of this, they don’t need 12 people on the floor, they can still service a greater number of customers.
The other thing is our customers are so much more willing to adapt than they ever have been before. So make sure that we communicate with our clients more robustly than we ever have because they’re willing to do business with you in a different way.
We work with a puzzle manufacturer who has sold in the last 3 months more puzzles than he sold in the previous 18 months. So his business has been supply chain challenges. How do we make sure that we’ve got enough inventory and to keep our previous suppliers happy while dealing with a whole lot more new retail customers?
Customers are buying more goods for their home. People are realizing their carpet is a mess and needs to be replaced because their home and their carpet looks awful, so they’re finding ways to do business with people in the trades. I know that we’ve had our backyard redone because we had just been so much time in our yard. So make sure that you’re looking for those silver linings.
The opportunities in your business, whether it’s finding, you know technology that will help you get back more quickly when things open up. Are you using video to communicate with your clients? What are those new relationships that you can take time today to build so that as things do open up your business will be in a stronger place?
So I’m pretty much towards the end of what I had to share, but what I’d like to know is what are the opportunities that you see have you seen any opportunities in your business go to Menti. That should be the next question that pops up. I think you can put in multiple answers if there’s one line item, you know put in one and then if you think it’s something else you can re-enter but let’s start to have the folks who are in our audience start to plug in. What are some opportunities that you see?
- More businesses need guidance.
- I’m a corporate event planner. I’ve pivoted to produce virtual events.
- The growth of live streaming events.
- Working from home on more of a regular basis. And depending on your home situation that can be good or bad, but I think there is an opportunity there.
- We have connected with loved ones in a way that we haven’t before. I’ve actually connected with cousins that I haven’t spoken to in forever.
- Creative shifts changing in ops. People are more open. You pick up the phone to talk to someone and they take your call now which didn’t always happen in the past.
- There’s more digital and virtual projects.
- Flexibility. Yep. There’s way more flexibility of what we’re willing to do
- More time with my oldest before he goes off to college.
- Being more intentional. More intentional about everything.
- I also think that people are more appreciative. I can’t tell you how appreciative I was to be able to sit outside and dine al fresco on Friday night and you know support a local business while, you know, getting back to spending time with family doing something we love.
- Connecting with non-profits and small business.
- Family time with my adult children.
- Upgrading a website.
- Growth in areas I’ve never had the time or energy to explore.
And you know, some of those may turn into revenue, or a new business idea. You know, our business’ official name is called Serendipity. I really believe that when you go down the path of learning or growth it comes back to you in ways that you didn’t even think about how you can apply that learning to your business and to turning your business around.
One of my clients is a general contractor. He invested a year and a half ago in amazing project management software and hasn’t had an opportunity to learn how to use it. He’s actually hired staff now to make it work and it’s going to make his business so much more effective.
And then there’s one final question. I think everybody has found something that has inspired you during this pandemic. So, can you please type in one or two things that may have inspired you during this pandemic?
- Medical professionals. I actually have a thank you sign 0n my front yard that says thank you for the first-responders and medical staff.
- Community generosity
Okay, you can keep entering them for a minute and I’m going to turn it back over to Angela. I want to thank you for your time. And hopefully we’ve all figured out a way to find some opportunity to take our business to the next level as we challenge ourselves to power through our current new new existence.
Angela – Thanks, Mary Ann. You know, you always every time we talk and every time I hear you speak, I love it because you always inspire me and everyone else in the room to remember, because this is really hard to remember, to work on your business versus in your business. That is something that if you’re a business owner, if you happen to be a business owner, or not, you know, you really lose track of that sometimes. You get so involved in the everyday and you forget to plan and take time to enjoy and appreciate and celebrate which that’s a wonderful thing that you reminded us of that we really need to do that.
Okay, so moving along our next panelist is Cathy Hofknecht with Neu Concepts. At SEO Rocket we’ve worked with Cathy many times on multiple projects. She always does a stellar job just every detail is noted and taken care of. She’s on top of things. So their business is a creative services and event exhibit creator and management company that they have actually made some changes in their businesses as well. Kinda one of the things that Mary Ann was talking about earlier. They are doing a lot with workplace solutions right now as far as you know coming into the workplace. Which is practically a whole new industry, right Cathy?
Cathy – Oh, yeah.
Angela – Yeah, so we wanted to actually real quick start with a poll. One more. Actually a couple more, but Cathy wanted to ask the question so we can kind of get to know you all a little bit. Here we are. If you could very briefly, quickly give your response there. Are you currently working remotely or in an office setting?
- 69% working remotely
- 15% in an office
- 15% half-and-half remote working and office working. Interesting
I don’t know Cathy, what did you expect to see there?
Cathy – That’s kind of about what I expected.
Angela – Yeah. We’re kinda like that too. Look at all of us on the panel. Anita, she’s in her office, and the rest. Well, Mary Ann you’re in your office too, right?
Mary Ann – Yeah, but I mean, I’m the only one here, so six-of-one… for me.
Angela – Right. Right. Gotcha.
Cathy Hofknecht, Neu Concepts https://neuconcepts.net/
Cathy – So again, you know, we’ve all been impacted in some way or another by the Covid environment. This Covid economy, as Angela described it. And as Mary Ann said, you know things are changing, so I’ve been inspired by the notion that there really is not a way to return the normal, so how do we embrace the New Normal? How do we reinvent ourselves, and our Office spaces and the way we work to move forward through all of this?
We’re seeing, obviously I’m not surprised by the survey, we’re seeing numerous companies right now who are choosing to still keep employees working remotely. Google just announced their folks will be remote until the summer of 2021. At the same time, even though 39 percent of the workforce is able to work from home, working remotely still has its challenges.
I know even the most introverted folks on my staff are craving human interaction at this point. There is no substitute for some of those impromptu discussions that happen when we arrive in the office in the morning, when we stopped for a break, or we have our lunch. So things are definitely changing, and it’s a new world out there.
So as we do begin to plan bringing people back to the office at some point in time, what are some of the keys that we really need to think about? We have been focused largely on the second piece that I’m going to talk a lot about, the physical space itself.
But the first step in terms of thinking about your workforce is preparing them to come back. Who needs to return? Maybe some jobs make more sense to be remote. I think many companies are taking a conservative approach, so they’re trying to minimize who comes in. Maybe you have some folks who are immune system compromised, so you want to make an exception for those.
And it’s important to establish policies and procedures. Again, you know, people are trying to navigate what’s going on, so the more clearly you can define what you expect, the better off you’re going to be. What happens if someone has the sniffles? Or they traveled to a hotspot? What sort of restrictions are you going to put in place? Are you going to ask them to quarantine for two weeks before they come back in the office? So there’s many many things to consider in that arena. There’s lots of great resources out there if you work with the PEO, or whoever does your HR work for you, can be a great resource in that area.
The piece that I’m going to focus on is, once you do decide to go back to the office, how do you implement a plan so that you can keep everybody safe? There are different things to consider. If you’re in an office where you have no visitors, it’s a little easier to establish rules and get everybody to follow them. If you’re a business that depends on people coming in, obviously, it’s a little bit harder because you have to not only educate your employees about what’s expected, but also your customers as well.
So there’s a couple of of key areas. You know protective barriers, we’ve all seen them everywhere now to help create separation. Finding ways to reduce touch points and increase cleaning. Now it’s not just about, you know, grabbing a rag and wiping down the counter. We really want to disinfect and get rid of germs. And most importantly, it’s about providing visual cues that are really going to help reinforce these behaviors.
Social distancing is not a natural thing for most of us, and it helps when we see visual cues, like X marks the spot. What do we do, you know, do we need to wear a mask? Do we not need to wear a mask? Which brings me to what I call, you know, Social Distancing 101 for the workplace.
We’ve all heard the 6-foot rule. We need to stay six feet apart, which means in an office you’re now talking about 36 square feet per person. How can we add barriers and cues that are going to help people? As you can see in this image I have up, adding Plexi barriers, even around open office cubicles, adding indicators of you know, what that space should look like so your neighbor doesn’t suddenly, you know come up behind you chatting with you within less than that six foot distance.
So again, with the rules and expectations, that X marks the spot, we’re encouraging people to clean surfaces and clean their hands more often. What are the rules when it comes to masks in the office, in our office? Most of our people are working remotely, but because we do build things we have a few folks in. Our rules are that if we’re working at our own desk, we don’t need to have our mask on. But if we’re going to get up and move about the office and interact with other people then we do need to put our mask on.
So I want to show you some examples and of some of the different projects and some of the different areas you need to consider as you are working on preparing your office for folks to come back. It’s really good to do a walk through your office with kind of fresh set of eyes. It lets you see kind of where the touch points are. Are there doors that could be left open instead of having someone touch a doorknob every time they have to walk through? How can we reconfigure our lobbies and entryways for social distancing? Again, adding protective barriers, especially when someone comes up to our reception desk. Signage, again I can’t emphasize this enough because it really helps to set those expectations when folks first come in the office. And some offices also were including as part of when you enter, you know, there are temperature checks. So if you’re going to plan for that, you know, where is that station going to be?
In terms of work spaces themselves, those of you who said you were back in the office some, you know, we’re going to see people come back at a much lower density. So how can we go about retrofitting our spaces without compromising on aesthetics? This is not about coming in and doing a wholesale change to our office. We have enough other things to worry about right now. Again signage, you know, so you keep hearing me say protective barriers and signage really again, some of the keys to keeping people apart. Maybe even though we have cubicles with walls, we need to, we want to add some protective barriers to add a little extra height to that, as you can see in the before and after in the upper image, so that when people kind of pop their head up to talk to their neighbor, there’s still some level of protection afforded to them.
And then when we go into more open and public spaces, how do we plan for a phased approach? We want to reduce capacity. We want to avoid places where there might be crowding. Sometimes we can remove furniture because we have a place to store it. Other times, that’s not so easy. So, how can we go ahead and mark furniture that should not be used. For example, you know, maybe there’s a table that says, “This space is reserved for social distancing.” So having tabletop signage and again, barriers and things that indicate kind of flow-of-traffic. You see this in the grocery store now, and a lot of stores where aisles are now one way, so we can avoid crowding and we kind of keep people a little bit more separate.
And so just to share a couple of examples, because one of the things we have found is people have a little bit of difficulty visualizing what a space might look like. We can take things like an open office area and we can add Plexi barriers in between them. We work with a number of clients to help with their reception areas.
- Pacific Western Bank over at the American Tobacco campus. Here we added custom Plexi for their office along with, there’s protective barriers near their coffee station.
- RTI International a number of their facilities, in entryways we’ve added protective barriers for their desks.
- The JB Duke Hotel. Here’s a case where with the reception area, we’ve added that extra protection. It’s a little hard to see in this image, you know, they wanted to keep with the aesthetic of the hotel, so we added a little bit, we etched their logo right into the Plexi as well.
You know, again a lot of us still are working at home. So what do we do when face-to-face is not option? And for all of those you are working from home, often we use teams to chat with one another. Some days people are really good about wanting to turn their video cameras on, and other days not so much. I always urge people to use their video cameras because there is nothing like being able to see other people’s faces. We read and we convey so much through our facial expressions.
It’s also important, again depending on the type of meeting that you’re doing, for example, if you’re doing a webinar like we’re doing today, make sure you have a good internet connection. Make sure you’ve verified your audio and you frame your shot. I know I did an interview with WRAL one evening and so, you know, they prepped me. Now I’ve gotten used to watching people when I see them on TV and you see that the camera is kind of looking up at them, so you’re kind of looking up their nose. So it’s really important to frame your shot, when you can. Make sure your light sources are in front of you so you don’t create shadows. And if you’re doing presentations, if you’re having a meeting with a client, you know, make sure you have some really nice, you know professional, polished visuals, as part of the presentation deck. There’s a different sort of expectation when we’re maybe communicating with our colleagues, but we still have the need to meet with clients and other people at different points in time.
Again being in the exhibit industry, you know, we’ve taken this to another level. Here’s an example of, you know, a stage we built for Wolfspeed Cree that they used for their Investor Day presentation last year. My expectation is we will probably set this up for them this year, only there won’t be an audience there. They will, you know, they may well decide to do it remotely, or if there is an audience, they certainly will be spread much further apart.
Another client we work with is Epic Games. This is a broadcast set that we created for them several years back that is in their facility in Cary where they do a number of different podcasts and video casts, so they wanted to have a nice professional looking set. This obviously was taken before social distancing. They don’t look like they’re six feet apart, but they could clearly spread their chairs out.
So these are just a few of the things that we encourage people to think about when they’re looking at their space. It’s all about safety. It’s all about making people comfortable. And finding our way through it, and taking it one step at a time. So there you have it.
Angela – Alright. Well, thank you Cathy. I appreciate that. Looking through your presentation, you know, a lot of times it’s really hard to visualize the layouts that you’re talking about, you know, when someone says let’s move it six feet apart, or let’s put in barriers is always really hard I know for me to visualize how that looks within an office space. It’s nice to see those and see how they can look… those layouts, I appreciate you sharing that with everyone. Hopefully that’s helpful for everyone else too.
Okay. So next we have another poll, so we can have some get-to-know-you time and I’m going to start this one right now. This is about Google My Business.
Your Google My Business page. Are you using it? Have you claimed it? Is it something you haven’t gotten around to doing yet?
All right. I’m going to… going once, going twice. And then let me share it with you everyone so you can see. Do you see the poll? Awesome. This is actually great information for you to have, Tom. It looks like about a third say that they are using Google My Business and two thirds are not.
Tom – Wow. All I can say is, wow.
Angela – Tom here is our next presenter, Tom Veltri with SEO Rocket, actually one of my team members.
You know right now we’re talking a lot about change and creativity and pivoting and all those things. Whether you’re being forced into it or you are you know, doing it on your own, taking the initiative to look under that box and find that million dollars, businesses right now small and large are making a lot of changes in their marketing and we’re seeing that a lot obviously as a digital marketing agency.
We’re hearing from people that we never would have heard from before, which is fantastic. But always having a strong online presence is key, and now more than ever because fifty to seventy percent of people have increased their internet usage because they have nothing to do, or they are looking for information, etc. So there are a lot of opportunities out there.
Tom, he’s our senior SEO Specialist here at SEO Rocket. I’m going to let him talk to you about some of those fantastic opportunities. Quick spoiler alert: a good bit of these opportunities are free, and they involve your Google My Business. Maybe if you haven’t gotten it done yet, you’ll start looking at it after this.
Tom Veltri, SEO Rocket https://seorocket.com/
Tom – Okay, good morning everybody. I’m Tom Veltri, and I’m still trying to get over the fact that 67% of you have not claimed your Google listing yet. Can we get to the first slide, Angela? We’re going to talk to you about a couple of different things today. Google My Business, as Angela pointed out, is free. Google Ads, some wins you may find there, and also a little bit about social media.
Now this is called a Knowledge Card. When somebody says to search for your business and in some cases just to search for something your business may do, this is always going to come up if they do a search for your name, and will sometimes come up under in other scenarios as well. But right now… I mean, this is free. You don’t have to pay for it. Google puts it out there. It’s one of those things that you can go out there and sign up for free. You need to do this because this is where people are going to come to find information about your business.
I will give you a perfect case – my favorite Italian restaurant around the corner from me closed in March and we couldn’t wait for them to reopen again, not to go there, to get take out. They had a little sign in the front saying “Opening Soon.” Well, one day they finally opened, so I went to Google to verify this and sure enough on Google, it said they were closed. Well, they hadn’t claimed their (Google My Business) listing, so information was coming in from other people, and even though the doors were open, they were (labeled as) closed. So first time I went in there and ordered I said, “Guys you need to do this. You need to change it.” And lo and behold, now it says that they’re open. So they probably got a lot less business those first couple of days that they were open because, these days you cannot assume somebody’s open. You can’t assume that they’ve got the same hours that they’ve had before. This is where people are going to find you. They’re going to search for their favorite Italian restaurant. They’re going to search for a wine bar to see if they’re open and what the hours are. This is where you need to do it.
Google has reacted to this (Covid pandemic). So in addition to the basic business description of your business – basic hours, maybe a couple of pictures. They’ve expanded and added a new attributes specifically because of what’s going on now. You can specify things like curbside pickup, contactless delivery, whether you’re doing dine-in. For different type of businesses, are you doing online classes? Online appointments, if a doctor? If your child is sick, your doctor’s office may not be open. You need to find a place, hopefully that will do Telehealth for you, if you don’t want to go in. All of these things are now available. They’ve also got Google Local Service Ads too. Those you will have to pay for, but that’s still something that’s available to take advantage of.
Another important thing is a lot of businesses have started doing things like secondary hours. Costco for instance, they open up an hour early for seniors to go in. I like that. People will not know that unless you put it out there, because they will assume you have regular hours or you don’t do things for seniors. It’s important to let your customers know what you’re doing and may be doing specifically for them.
Local reviews! It’s very important to keep soliciting reviews and responding to reviews. People are now being very cautious about what businesses they go to, which businesses they frequent. People will leave you a negative review in a heartbeat, but they could also leave you positive reviews. Right now it’s very important to respond to as many of those reviews – negative or positive – as possible because people are looking for this information before they decide if they want to interact with your company, or not. So make sure you keep that up to date.
Google has also added a separate Covid-19 Post area, which is kind of interesting. So for this restaurant I had mentioned before, I suggested to them since they were doing dining-in, but they were following all the Covid guidelines, you may want to put that on there. There may be some people who want to go out to eat, but they’re concerned about it, and you can tell them that you’re taking advantage of these guidelines and making sure these people are going to be safe. Let your audience be aware of that. This is free. You don’t have to pay for this. This is absolutely free. So keep doing that.
This would be a good idea of what a Covid Post type may look like. It will go up there for 14 days, and then if you want to put something new up, or refresh it, or things have changed, you will have to go in there and (update) it. I’ll give you a perfect for instance, just yesterday, we found out that Governor Cooper said that restaurants can no longer serve alcohol after 11 o’clock. Somebody may need to go in here and adjust what they’re saying on their Google Knowledge card because they may need to make a change of hours, so people are aware of this new (policy).
Show your business safety protocols! Put pictures in there. Try to tailor the pictures you are putting up that are representing your business to show that you’re not tone deaf – that you understand what’s going on, and what you’re doing about it. Safety protocols. Humanize your business with smiling people. People can tell when you’re smiling behind most masks, so they’ll still see it. Give them a happy feeling.
You could do video tours and put them up there. Again, this is all free. So if you’re worried about how people are going to find me, how are we going to go in there, if there’s one takeaway for today, claim that listing! If you have a listing, don’t assume that you set it and forget it. Go in there, log in and see if it’s up to date, change it, take advantage of some of these features Google is offering you.
Now, if any of you are doing Google Ads out there. One of the things that you may not be aware of, is with all this pandemic going on, (Google has) actually started giving people ad credits for companies who have been advertising a long time. If you log in you may find out that you’ve got yourself some money back that you can use to do advertising. A lot of people are not advertising as much as they used to and this could be a good time, if you haven’t done paid search before. Dabble in a little bit because keywords that may have been at much higher prices to bid on are more open now and you may get a better bargain on it. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your keywords are as targeted as possible so you’re not spending money needlessly.
One big thing that came out of all of this, I think I had noticed it in one of Mary Ann’s surveys before, somebody was shifting to an online model where people could purchase things online. Google Shopping has announced that they will put your products up there for free now. This used to be a pay-to-play (only) area, but you can list products on there for free (too), so that’s another thing that you can take advantage of.
Now, social media. What is it, 67% of people are working from home now, or a combination of both? People aren’t going out as much as they used to. So they’re spending a lot of time on social (media). Social media advertisers are cutting back on their budgets, now’s also a good time to spend some ad money on social places where you can target your audience specifically. You can find some bargains in there. Less competition means lower costs for these things.
People have been engaging with social media at much higher rates now. Again, because of this whole pandemic going on and people having to social distance and stay in our houses. Facebook also has ad grants that you could find out if you might qualify for.
Another thing that I would advise is, a lot people will try to plan their marketing ahead of time, what they’re going to do… we’re going to post this next week and in two weeks after that and make a plan. Normally, that would be a good strategy, but today with what’s going on, you need to be more topical, you need to kind of stay on track because things are fluid. Things are happening and changing from day to day to day. So you want to show people that you’re “with it”, you know what’s going on. You tailor your message accordingly.
Try to be neutral. I think people have a tendency to be these days to be very politically divisive. You may feel very passionate one way or another. You don’t necessarily want to let that reflect on your social postings because you don’t want to alienate half of your clients when you may have a quarter of the business now. You need to draw from the whole pool. Try to tone down what you’re doing there.
But again, the biggest takeaway I’d like you guys to see from this whole presentation on this was about Google My Business. Claim that listing. Work that listing if you have any questions about it, you’re going to get contact information from us at the end of this where you can reach out to us. If you’ve got questions about your specific business, I encourage you to ask them.
Angela will be taking questions, correct?
Angela – Yes. We are taking questions.
Tom – We want to leave some time. I’m going to shut up now, because we want to leave time for question and answers, but I hope you had some good takeaways from this and thank you.
Angela – Thanks, Tom. I kind of did a fast forward from you on one of those lines there. Sorry, you always have a lot of information to share, so we appreciate that. But yeah, these are fantastic opportunities that we have been sharing with our clients and people who reach out to us. So we urge you to take advantage of them. I mean my gosh so many of them are free. Why wouldn’t you just take some time on your part to make it happen? Any questions on that? I think you’re seeing our screen. We have everyone’s web addresses up. So, feel free to reach out to any of us as we go through and we all have contact forms and such so you can get more information, if you don’t get your question answered today.
We have one more poll and this one is in honor of Anita Quarles, our CPA today. Money is very important to everyone as you know, whether you are a (for) profit, nonprofit, whatever, so we know that money will always be important to you. Anita is going to talk to us today about the different options out there. Here comes your poll. This is your money poll, and this is about the PPP loans.
PPP loans – Did you receive one or did you not? And yeah, look at this. 50/50. How about that? Does that surprise you?
Anita – It does a little bit. I’d be curious to understand I guess on the “No’s” why that is.
Angela – Here we go. Okay, so it should be tossing the screen over to you Anita. I did hide the poll.
Anita Quarles, CPA A. Quarles, CPA PLLC – https://www.aquarlescpa.com/
Anita Quarles. CPA: Okay. Well, I’m Anita Quarles. I’m the owner of A Quarles CPA here in Winston-Salem. Thank you for everyone that’s been joining us. I wanted to talk briefly about the financial assistance that’s out there, give you an update on the Paycheck Protection Plan, the Economic Interest Disaster Loans, or the EIDL’s, SBA debt relief, and some tax credits for employers.
As like everyone else on the call here today, my 2020 has not ended up exactly the way I had thought it was going to start. I’d never imagined I’d be sitting there in July having to manage around another tax deadline, but thankfully we got through that.
So let’s jump into an update on the Paycheck Protection Plan. As you know, when the paycheck protection plan first came out, PPP – kudos to all the bankers, and CPAs and the lawyers out there really getting our hands around not only a new vocabulary, but the new regulations that came out. So remember the original intent of the PPP was so that employers could maintain their current level of employees in both salary amount and headcount. That became important as we rolled through the summer.
There is a new window of applications that began on July 6th. It ended for a little bit. It picked back up on July 6th, and now is expected to close again. So those “No” answers on the poll, if you think it’s a good fit for you, you still have until around August 8th to go to your banker and try to get an application in.
For most of everyone else that did get PPP funding, the forgiveness application, or the forgiveness element is what’s on the horizon. I’m thinking and I’ve heard various banks say that they are going to start the official process of accepting the forgiveness applications by, or around, August 15th. As most of you know, the SBA came out with actually two applications: an EZ form, and a Regular form. Please do not submit those to your banker. Each bank is coming up with their own forgiveness application, and are actually doing it in a portal. Most banks actually have that portal up and running where you can log on and go ahead and start uploading some specific documentation to that. So when the official application becomes available through your bank, you’ll have you’ll have a jumpstart.
As you know, the Payroll (Protection Program) Flexibility Act came out that extended the amount of weeks that your payroll could run due to the delay in opening in the longevity of what we’ve been facing.
So as you know, the PPP was set up to cover payroll costs, rent, utilities and mortgage and interest so you can use the PPP funding for other items. However, the other cost won’t be included and be available for forgiveness. That’s the key component of this. Remember this is a loan. So originally if you can’t get any amounts or part of the amounts forgiven, it rolls over into a 2 to 5 year loan at a very low interest rate. The documentation that you need to get together for getting ready for that forgiveness application is: your employer 941s, your payroll registers by employee, your bank statements to show proof of payment, and then any invoices to support these other costs, like rent and utilities.
For rent and mortgage interest. The bankers are going to be asking for your lease agreement. So those are just specific documents to go ahead and have ready. Talk to your banker figure out the portal login and go ahead if they are able to do so, go ahead and start uploading those documents, if it’s available and at that point it can give you a jumpstart when the official application becomes available.
One thing to mention on the forgiveness, typically debt forgiveness is a taxable event. The IRS has come out and the SBA has come out making sure that any amounts that are forgiven under the PPP will not be subject to income tax.
So the Economic Interest Disaster Loans are still available. They’ve been opened up to agricultural companies or agricultural businesses. That wasn’t in the initial legislation, but it is now. These are 30-year, low interest loans. There are restrictions on these loans. They must be used for working capital purposes. You can’t go and buy a huge building for it, and it’s not to be used specifically for dividends or distributions paid to owners. Now having said that, with all of the restrictions, there are obviously some valid reasons to use that money. So I would just encourage you, if you are applying for the Economic Interest Disaster Loans, to have those documents reviewed by an attorney, or a business advisor, or a CPA.
The other thing you haven’t heard very much about is the SBA debt relief on existing SBA Loans. The SBA came out at the beginning of this and offered a six-month program where the SBA would actually cover your principal and interest on your existing SBA Loans. And some businesses I know took advantage of that. Again, there’s not going to be a tax impact on that.
The tax credits for the employers. This is still being worked out, as everybody has said throughout the presentation, this is an ever-changing environment. The tax credits that we know about so far, there is a local tax credit that happens the second quarter and you may not have known about it, but your employer or small businesses got a credit on their employment insurance premiums that they typically pay equal to their first quarter payment. So that was rolled out in the second quarter. I look for there to be more. Nothing official has come out on that. But I do look for there to be more as the year goes on.
At the federal level everyone, I think, has heard of the deferment of the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare for six months. So an employer has the option to not pay. It still becomes accrued, but you don’t have to pay the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare, and you can structure a two-year payment term on that and that goes through December 31st of this year.
The other tax credits that are still being ironed out is, any employer that was forced to pay sick time due to a Covid-19 diagnosis will receive a credit at the end of the year. I put this in the next one in italics because I’m always hesitant to say IRS is going to pay us interest on anything. However, they did come out last week and announced that for those taxpayers that’s filed a tax return before April 15th and have not received their refunds, that they are going to come out and pay interest to those individuals. I’ve not seen anyone get their interest check yet, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that one.
Do a mid-year financial review. All of this is very complicated. It’s very fluid. We’ve had to be on the gun just learning real time together with the bankers. Meet with your CPA if you’ve got questions on the Forgiveness applications.
By all means re-budget and re-forecast your cash flow going through the end of the year. That two to three to six month cash flow. Things are changing – your head counts changing, salaries maybe changing, the loans have come in, factoring in payments of all that. Just get a grasp and ask for advice on budgeting and cash flow analysis through the end of the year.
Meet with your financial advisor on the 401K early withdrawal relief that came out. They are waiving the 10% penalty on early withdrawals out of 401K plans. Look at your revenue streams and expense items and how they’ve changed. And then obviously we talked about get a grasp on your security and remote working environments with this current pandemic and the way that your staff may be working both virtually and in the office. That is it for me.
Angela – Thank you Anita. You know I actually took notes during that. There were some great tips. I really did. I don’t know if you could see. Some things in there I didn’t know about and I try to stay on top of these things, but you’re right they change so frequently, it’s nice. So, I had a quick question. Actually, I’m sure other people have the same question, so I’m going to go ahead and ask it. You mentioned that this is the time to reevaluate your expenses and your financial planning. How often do you think people should do that now?
Anita – You know, I think, not once a year, that’s my answer. Twice a year, quarterly even with things as they’ve been moving, you know, so rapidly. Quarterly at a minimum, especially with small businesses. Changes in your personal situation will happen very quickly if you own your own business in this environment. So quarterly is a good answer.
Angela – Okay. Quarterly. That kinda does make sense too at the rate of business to do that even personally, your personal finances, to do that.
Well, I don’t have a watch on me because it’s the new world, but I know we’re running slightly over. Any questions? We did have some questions that came in really quick from our social media, we had some questions come in before the event. One would be – Where do we go for help? And this I guess everyone can answer this one. Where do we go for help?
Mary Ann – I can jump in on that, you know, we normally do a quarterly plan. I think Anita’s even come to some of them. A quarterly business plan with all of our clients and just people in the community who want to do it. Normally it’s at Graylyn, but, and it’s a little pricey because it’s at Graylyn, but now we’re doing it virtually and it’s really cost effective, and it’s called Growth Club. So I recommend that people sign up for that. I think it’s $59 and $99, depending on the business. There’s two levels of engagement, but it’s a great, all day, on the computer, so it’s seven hours of working with a team of coaches. And when Anita participates, we tap into her brain as much as we can as well to make sure that we’ve got a financial plan as well as an actionable strategy plan every 90 days.
Angela – And with SEO Rocket, you can always go to our website, SEORocket.com. We have blogs there about things that are happening. We put a lot of information out in our social media regularly. Always feel free to call. We’re very communicative. We’re very open to conversations, so you can do that with us as well as far as any marketing questions, or you can even email them to us. We have contact forms as well. And then you know, you can always find us there, anything else?
I have one more question, one more, and we have like 90% of our attendees still on, so I appreciate everyone’s staying on and this will be our last one, I think. What should we consider as we look to reopen our offices? This may be you, Cathy.
Cathy – Perfect. I think one of the important things again is, safety first. And what most people are deciding again, like everything else, we make a plan and then we have to adjust the plan based on what’s going on around us. So I think it’s really important, as I mentioned, most folks have to stop and think first about, “What are my policies and procedures?” So again, that’s not an area I spent a ton of time on, but really think about, “What are your expectations for people going to be?” so that you have a clear set of rules, so that everybody is on the same page. You know, people have strong feelings about masks, and whether they believe the virus is real and not real, and you need to mitigate all of those things. So by having simple and clear policies of “Hey, we’re going to sit six feet apart. We can no longer congregate at the lunch table. We’re not going to have free snacks.” The more you can communicate, the better I think. I don’t think that is an issue that’s purely related to workspace. I think it is related to everything all of us do every day in this Covid economy.
Tom – If I can add to that again, use your Google My Business listing to let people know that you’re open again and what your new hours and circumstances may be. If you rely on customers to come in to your business, you want to put information in front of them that’ll let them know what your new situation may be, hours, whatever. But take advantage of that, and did I mention that it was free? Use it to your advantage.
Angela – Alright, great. Well, thank you all so much. The attendees, thank you for hanging in with us and watching. Most of you are still here. We certainly appreciate your time today and your attention. I so hope that we met our goal and you did get some actionable, usable information. I know I did. I think even our panel has too, learned some things from each other today. So thank you so much for attending. We appreciate it. Hey, panelists you were awesome. I love you. Thank you so much, as well.
Just to let you know, this is the end of our maiden voyage which means there actually will be another SEO Rocket webinar that will be more advanced and experienced. So we are looking to plan one of those the end of August. I will keep you posted on that on our website and our social media.
That one is going to be on putting together a digital marketing strategy. Some of the things that we actually think about. The steps that we go through when we put those together for our clients. We’re going to share that with you. So, you can do it for yourselves, or do it along with us. That will be great information to have. Look for that.
So, I guess that’s our end of our time today. I’ll let everyone get away and have your lunch and enjoy your day going out and celebrate nature and your highs and lows you experienced today. May your highs be really high. Your lows, not be so low. But anyway, thank you for your time today. We appreciate it.
And this is Angela and the Rocket Team signing off. Thanks guys. Bye.