I recently interviewed Shelly Bell, founder of Black Girl Ventures, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to community, education, and leadership development for Black and Brown woman founders. We spoke about the painful and unacceptable racial disparities in the distribution of the Paycheck Protection Program as an example of the gaps in business.
She pointed out, we must prioritize understanding and inclusion. Barriers to access are often about mistrust in the systems and lack of direct contacts to help. Media is now more accessible than ever and so people with platforms need to use them to elevate underrepresented voices and make connections to help. We can also support organizations like Black Girl Ventures who are doing great work in this space.
What about small business owners?
Let’s start by acknowledging that it’s on us that we did not have, at our quick disposal, banking relationships to call upon and savings to rely on in a crisis. 2 weeks of cash reserves isn’t enough — and never was. Going forward as we reopen and rebuild, we have to put the healthy financial stewardship of our business in the forefront, no excuses. That starts with building a profitable business model for the future and a team of professionals around us. We must also enhance our financial skills as entrepreneurs. Most of us didn’t get into business to manage finances, and so for too long we have been delegating critical understanding of the financial functions of our businesses. That must stop.
Let’s also acknowledge for some, now is the time to leave the game. Not all businesses should reopen. Business post-pandemic will undergo the most significant and rapid change since modern business began at the turn of the 20th century and we need to be prepared for that and only focus on the businesses that will provide value going forward.
We also must assemble the best most committed employees we can. Our team must be the team of the future and be at our side as we continue to pivot and rapid-pro-type in this new environment. Talent is now available at scale, and we need to be thoughtful, compassionate, and strategic with hiring. That is going to require an investment in our team’s physical, mental and emotional health in a new way. The days of working ourselves and our teams to exhaustion need to be gone.
What do we want our small business communities to look like?
Small businesses are the fabric of our communities and the backbone of our economy. With so many small businesses closing down we now have to acknowledge our communities will look very different in the coming months. Many of our favorite neighborhood establishments will not reopen or may close later when they determine they no longer have a sustainable business model. This will be difficult and at times devastating.
As we close this chapter and look to a new one, we all have to decide what we want our communities to look like going forward and take action accordingly. Even with the virus still spreading, it’s time to begin rebuilding our communities, starting with our businesses and by doing so we will rebuild our lives, rebuild our America, and rebuild our world.