American Companies Scramble to Adapt to Business Under COVID-19

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Thousands of American business owners are scrambling to implement “adapt and survive” strategies as they navigate the unprecedented economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic. If there is a positive in this dire situation, it’s that connected technology tools have never been more powerful and widely available. That’s made it possible for numerous business models to send workers home and keep them productive using video conferencing software, such as Zoom.

Other software is also coming to the rescue. One is JotForm, an online form builder that enables efficient collaboration functionality by linking up all coworkers and teams as they work during lockdowns. Another example is Trello. This software is a web-based tool that can be used for individual task management or project management for an entire team.

Meanwhile, many businesses are looking for cash flow advantages wherever they can find them. For example, some businesses are claiming section 301 tariff refunds. One of them is Minnesota-based Digi-Key. It is the fourth largest electronic component distributor in North America. It conducts significant commerce with customers in China. Digi-Key president Mark Larson said the ability to regain income lost from Trump’s trade war and tariffs imposed against China is a welcome financial shot in the arm in this difficult economic climate.

Shifting from in-store sales and retail traffic to delivery modes of operation has become a major adaptation approach for businesses, especially restaurants and grocery stores. Restaurants are using apps that allow customers to easily select from menus online and then just punch “send” or “order.” The restaurant then delivers directly to the customer’s home. Payment is handled automatically via the app. Grocery stores are also moving to apps. People can use them to shop for groceries. They then drive to the supermarket parking lot and stay in their car while a store worker pops the grocery bags into the trunk.

In the industrial sector, many companies are adopting a “cooperation and alliance” approach with entities that were once competitors. A report by McKinsey called this the “frenemies phenomenon.” Business owners are partnering with former competitors to share the cost burdens of ramping up technologies – such as increasing automation, supply chain distribution process sharing, remote customer communication capabilities and more. Business owners are finding that cooperating and cost-sharing in these difficult times can be more profitable than competing.

Media strategy and promotion is a major expense for businesses during good times and bad for business. It’s tempting, then, to slash budgets in this area since fewer people will be buying anyway.

However, cutting promotional budgets might save cash in the short run but could be devastating in the long run. That’s why many companies are shifting media outreach budgets to maintaining long-term brand identity and credibility rather than focus on immediate sales promotions or product-driven marketing messages. Sooner or later, this crisis will end. Those companies that maintain a strong public brand image will be in the best position to return to maximum profitability fast.

Many companies are seeking rebates and refunds for a variety of B2B products and services they will not be using. Getting a refund on travel is a major area for many operators.

Among the best resources for businesses is the federal government. Uncle Sam has unleashed an array of programs for grants, disaster loans, paycheck protection programs and debt relief/forgiveness programs. Just one example is the Small Business Administration’s Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program. It allows a business to get a $25,000 loan much faster and with less paperwork.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.