Spokane Journal of Business

Small business owners regain their confidence

Banker offers advice for journey to recovery

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Small business owners in Spokane and across the country are slowly but surely regaining their footing after a uniquely challenging year. In fact, Spokane County’s job market is continuing to recover, with its April 2021 unemployment rate dropping to 6.1% compared with 16.4% in April 2020.

According to new research from Bank of America, business owners’ economic confidence and revenue expectations have bounced back significantly since last fall. We found that 60% of small businesses expect their revenue to increase over the next 12 months, and nearly 80% attribute this to the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

Business owners adapted their business for the health and safety of their employees over the past year. As the economy begins to reopen, 62% anticipate that the operational changes they made in response to the coronavirus will continue beyond the pandemic—specifically enhancing their sanitation practices and building a digital sales strategy. As digital proliferation continues, we expect to see more helpful tools come out for business owners.

While these signs of progress are encouraging, we know that the journey to full recovery can be a long one. I’d like to share some key insights from Bank of America’s Small Business Owner Report as well as tips to navigate the path forward as the economy safely reopens.

Consider a digital transition. Businesses across the country have adjusted aspects of their operations, changing primary revenue streams and shifting to online sales. While we know many consumers are eager to return to in-person events and interactions, consider how you can integrate the benefits of digital offerings into your long-term strategy.

Proceed with pur–pose. If you are a part of the 53% of business owners who indicated they are committed to advocating for social change through their business, be sure to set clear and attainable goals. Consumers are sharp and will be able to tell the difference between platitudes and substance.

Create an application that is easy to navigate. As businesses begin to reopen more job opportunities are expected to become available. Create an application process that is quick and easy, but still screens for the experience level you’re looking for. Make sure your application is mobile friendly, too.

Get everyone to recruit. Tapping into your current employee base can be one of the most powerful and cost-efficient strategies to find and recruit talent. Your current employees have familiarity with your company culture and the necessary skillset to thrive at your organization. Consider offering bonuses to staff who successfully refer new employees.

Reevaluate short-term and long-term goals. Spokane business owners took advantage of many resources and programs throughout the last year to navigate the pandemic, leaning on friends and family and seeking professional guidance. And while one-quarter applied for a business loan or line of credit over the past year, only 16% say they will seek financing in 2021.

Consider strategies to continue this positive momentum throughout 2021. Take stock of your business’ current situation and business plan and set realistic goals as your business’ recovery continues.

Explore available resources to meet your goals. Consider the following questions: What new goals require additional financing? Are you looking to boost your headcount? Do you anticipate any structural or technological enhancements in the coming year?

For small business owners to be successful, they need to have access to the tools and resources needed to secure funding.

Overall, we’re seeing encouraging progress for the small business community in Spokane and we’re looking forward to seeing business owners thrive in 2021 and beyond.

Kurt Walsdorf is the Bank of America market president for Spokane and Idaho.

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