When the COVID-19 pandemic first swelled in March and April 2020, staff at the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison not only listened to what small business owners were saying about their struggles, they took action.
Navigating the New Normal: A Practical Guide to COVID Response for Small Businesses is a direct result of those early conversations. Rather than inundate business owners with rapidly changing program information and guidance, SBDC staff created a hands-on, active workbook that uses business fundamentals and best practices to help entrepreneurs assess their individual situations and plan for a future which may very well still include the COVID-19 virus.
“2020 has been a year of uncertainty, which can leave business owners spinning their wheels, not knowing where to go next,” says SBDC Director Michelle Somes-Booher. “In Navigating the New Normal, we use a checklist format to help them reflect on their experiences, realize how much they’ve already accomplished, and think through their next steps in a structured way. Our goal is to bring them back to their business planning basics and help them evaluate.”
By working through the guide, which includes reflection questions, checklists, and goal-setting prompts, business owners can:
- Reflect on where they were and the decisions they made at the beginning of the crisis to see how those decisions impacted the business.
- Re-evaluate their business more holistically by identifying what best practices they would like to begin, continue, or enhance moving forward.
- Refocus their business plan by narrowing down their ideas into top-priority SMART goals that they can then act on themselves or assign to another member of their team.
Topic areas covered include: financial management, business operations and cybersecurity, employees, customers and marketing, products and services, and leadership.
The guide is free of charge and designed with funds from the CARES Act.
The SBDC also offers a variety of resources to business owners, including courses in starting, operationalizing, and leading a business as well as no-cost, confidential business consulting. Business owners can request an SBDC business consultant by completing the form on the center’s site.
Somes-Booher was recently named the Wisconsin SBDC Network’s State Star, an award recognizing a recipient’s “impact on clients, innovative approaches, team spirit, and willingness to go the extra mile.”
The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is part of a statewide network of SBDC’s working with business owners and entrepreneurs to facilitate business growth and improvement, and to launch successful new companies. Through no-cost consulting and low-cost entrepreneurial education, SBDC experts serve as resources for small and emerging mid-size companies. The Wisconsin SBDC Network is a proud part of the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship in the University of Wisconsin System and is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Since March 2020, SBDC consultants have:
- Met with 243 clients on COVID-related questions for an average of 1.7 hours per client
- Helped clients obtain $8.17 million in COVID-related local, statewide, and federal aid
- Transitioned or posted 15 classes online, including several new offerings