Small businesses can apply for city’s bridge loans Monday

By Ken Martin, The Austin Bulldog

Also: The SBA’s streamlined loan application process will grant cash advances up to $10,000 that don’t have to be repaid

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the City of Austin’s request to use some $5.7 million in Section 108 funds already on hand to make Economic Injury Bridge Loans. The City will begin taking applications Monday. (More about that later.)

In other welcome news, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has streamlined the application process for a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)—including an advance of up to $10,000 that does not have to be repaid.

The SBA’s EIDL program is open to a wide variety of businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors, cooperatives, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), tribal small business concerns, and nonprofits—including faith-based organizations. All must have 500 or fewer employees to qualify.

“The estimated time for completing this entire application is two hours and 10 minutes,” the SBA instructions state, “although you may not need to complete all parts.” The SBA is relying upon self-certification of eligibility by applicants who must complete applications under penalty of perjury. Two local business owners, both sole proprietors, interviewed by telephone today said they applied Monday, and both said it took less than a half-hour. The online application process provided an on-screen identifying number when completed but neither have received an email confirmation or been contacted for more information.

City’s bridge loan applications open Monday

The Austin City Council on March 26, 2020, approved the bridge loan program designed to provide working capital to both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations. The Austin Bulldog published extensive details about the program that same day. READ MORE.

COVID-19 disaster help coming for small businesses

COVID-19 disaster help coming for small businesses

But it’s going to be hard to apply for and slow in coming

This article will focus on what’s being done to help small businesses to survive the economic disaster caused by the coronavirus.

Small businesses create the nature and character of Austin, maintain our city’s unique culture, and collectively employ a tremendous number of workers who keep these enterprises hustling and bustling to everyone’s benefit.

Or at least they did in normal times.

These are not normal times.

Austin’s small businesses are being slammed by the impact of coronavirus that’s keeping customers away. Normally bustling restaurants are reduced to offering takeout. Liquor stores are barring entry and offering curbside service. Live entertainment is being webcast by musicians trying to keep a following, keep our spirits up, and maybe make a few bucks.

Grocery stories are militantly policing lines of customers waiting to get in, limiting the number of people allowed to shop at the same time, and placing employees on every aisle to enforce distancing of customers from one another to at least six feet. And we appreciate their efforts to help keep us safe and fed in these trying times.

Small business help is coming … eventually

As customers, we’re adapting and learning new survival techniques.

But as business owners, if we’re not selling groceries, gasoline, or medicine we’re already in deep trouble and no end in sight. We’re worried about paying rent, helping our employees as best we can, and trying to keep from going belly up in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Breaking news: National news reports indicate the U.S. Senate passed a stimulus package of $2.2 trillion early this morning to help multiple sectors of the economy, from supporting people who are out of work to propping up major corporations.

The Washington Post reported early this morning that the legislation includes $377 billion in zero-interest loans for firms of fewer that 500 employees, “loans that could be forgiven if the firms follow certain conditions, such as not firing their workers.”

The money would be made through lenders certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Post reported, such as banks and credit unions. The maximum loan is capped at $10 million.

“The money could be used for covering employee salaries, rent, paid leave, utility payments, health insurance premiums or other necessities or worker protection.”

“Loans given to firms with tipped employees, such as bars and restaurants, could be forgiven in they are used to provide additional wages to their employees. Nonprofits can also apply for these funds,” the Post reported.

The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday and the president has said he’s going to sign it into law immediately.

That’s really good news.

The not so good news is that after Congress passes and the president signs this crucial legislation and details are made known, it’s going to take considerable time to draw plans and devise methods to implement these vital relief measures.

Then when the tools are finally put in place and the money flows, there’s going to be an application process for small business owners to deal with.

You think you waited in line at the grocery for a long time? Wait till you’re trying to elbow your way through the long line of business owners itching to get the lender’s approval. At this stage no one knows what kind of applications may be necessary. READ MORE.

HR Plans During Crisis

Submitted by Caroline Valentine, Valentine HR

I have rewritten this blog post every day for the past three days as new information is being shared by business partners and government agencies and finally realized this quickly moving and fluid situation will continue to evolve so it is best to send this out with the caveat that information may change. We will be updating our blog and email distributions more frequently during this time.  

As the realities of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and subsequent disruptions to everyday life are beginning to set in, we have received emails from partners including Microsoft, Google, Lyft, and WeWork, with assurances of protocols they have put into place so that employees are being supported with training on safe behavior and other measures to provide the best services to customers.

We have been in contact with health insurance carriers including BCBS, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare on coverage options for full funded, level funded and self-funded plans. Some have determined deadlines for opting into extended coverage. I will be addressing this later in this blog post.

Disability insurance carriers have reached out with coverage options and protocols for filing claims for those affected by illness during this time.

SHRM, Society of Human Resources Management, has hosted a webinar with the assistant director of the CDC, Center for Disease Control, Jay C. Butler, MD, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases earlier this week where we learned more on How Businesses, Workers and Workplaces Should Respond to COVID-19. 

Basically, everyone is communicating on an on-going basis. If you are a business owner or non-profit executive struggling over how best to respond to the current situation, it is time to dust off your crisis and communication management plans and activate them.

Having a plan to determine next best steps for your employees, customers, and constituents is crucial during any disruptions whether they be weather related, technology failures or as in the case now, global pandemic. Yes, the, WHO, World Health Organization, has determined and announced this.

Don’t have a communication plan for employees?   Here is where to start: READ MORE








Words of Affirmation: Everyone Loves a Compliment

Words of Affirmation: Everyone Loves a Compliment

You rock.  My “go-to” words of affirmation for my fellow HR consultants.

This is one of my favorite love languages: Words of Affirmation. So, what is it to affirm others?   After a super quick online search, I found two meanings:

  • To state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly


  • To offer emotional support or encouragement

I’ve written before about the necessity for gratitude and appreciation among leaders.

Happy culture companies encourage employees to be helpful, encouraging, and appreciative of one another. After all, your coworkers are the ones in the trenches with you. If they value what you do, that carries a lot of weight. But leaders and managers can’t just hope that people will show appreciation for each other. They have to talk about the value of it in team meetings. They have to make the effort to notice when an employee is particularly helpful or encouraging of other team members. They have to recognize the behavior.  And, they need to model the behavior for others.

First and foremost, it begins with yourself. Don’t go out and announce “We’re going to cultivate a culture of gratitude and affirmation in the workplace!” and start demanding that people complement each other on some quota basis. This isn’t something where you go in and dictate a culture change, no matter how much your organization may need it. This is something a leader has to do on their own, with small steps that will eventually ripple throughout the organization.

Start with little things: Say thank you to people when they give you an update about a project, send you a document you were looking for or help put the conference room back in order after a meeting. Start noticing and actually looking for opportunities to praise others, like the sales rep who closed the deal or the server who handled the irate customer smoothly and calmly. You don’t have to give them a card, buy them a fancy lunch or publicly praise them — in fact, some people are very uncomfortable with public praise. All you really have to do is communicate that you appreciate them and that you see the work they do and effort that goes into it.

In my business, I might go a whole week without seeing one or another of my associates, but I know that our connection with one another over the work we do is always greatly helped when I take the time to call or email and just say “I am so impressed with your amazing HR knowledge” or “Thank you for taking on that last minute project.” I don’t want to communicate: It’s your job, so you’ll do it or else. That doesn’t promote mutual respect and cooperation. Giving someone a little appreciation for the work they put toward making your company better does.

In some companies, there’s a sense of entitlement, like “Hey, where’s the personal chef? Why don’t we get massages every week like they do at XYZ company?” That whole attitude can be a gratitude killer. It’s still up to the leader to transform it. You begin by thanking them for what they do, and chances are it will work its way back around. Imagine hearing from employees: “Hey, thank you for the free lunch. Thank you for the flex time or for creating this cheerful work atmosphere or for giving me a chance to grow in my career.”

When you start affirming people, most will notice and recognize how much better it makes them feel about their work. Then they’ll want to pass that on. And everybody will be happier, healthier, and possibly love working even more.

Contributed by Caroline Valentine, Valentine HR

Building Referrals: How Strong are Your Referral Partners?

Contributed by Think BIG! Program

So, you build your business on referrals, eh? Then, wouldn’t it make sense to deepen those relationships for a much bigger win/win partnership?

When we ask where a company gets referrals, often we hear that they come both from clients and third-party referral partners. That’s great! Both are great sources of referrals. So here’s a question….when you think about strengthening those relationships for more or better referrals, will you deploy the same strategy for both?

Truth is, you shouldn’t. Each needs a different strategy. For clients, start with robust client service. When your clients are treated well and love their experience, they’ll make better referrers.

For third-party alliances, set clear expectations, create an open dialogue partnership, and be realistic about the depth of the partnership.

For now, let’s tackle third-party referral partnerships. We call these Channel Partners, because you both act as a channel to each other’s client bases. Don’t assume that just because you have alliances, all the work is done and you can just sit back, relax, and watch the referrals trickle in.

Like all good, long-term friendships, a Channel Partnership requires attention. Some friendships are mere acquaintances, very friendly and you’ll say ‘Hi’ when you see them. Some, however, are deeply connected, very trusted relationships where you both feel comfortable to be open, honest, and available. Friendships can run the spectrum of depth, and so do Channel Partners.

Here’s a quick guide to begin determining how deep your Channel Partner relationships run. If it’s not as strong as you’d like, there’s a simple 4-step process you can take to create more depth and get more intentional with them.

Take an honest look at the referral relationships you’ve got in your circle and determine where they fall on this pyramid. Keep in mind, you only need a few at Level 1 (Pre-sold) to build a long-term future pipeline of ideal clients. These take a bit of attention and focus to develop, so it’s not for everyone. These are the ones you’ll spend your best time with.

Level 1 (Pre-Sold) Channel Partners are those that…
• know exactly who your ideal clients are
• know to recognize when someone needs your services
• know how to introduce you and tee you up
• are open to feedback to improve their referrals to you
• can do all of the above so well, that when their clients call you, they are practically pre-sold

Want to know the 4-Step process for developing strong Channel Partners? Join one of our B2B Connect Advisory Peer Groups and work with other B2B service providers in developing your Level 1 Channel Partners. Or check our site for webinars and local networking specifically aimed at B2B networking and workshops.

Why work to get just one sale today, when you can create a 10-year pipeline of future ideal clients with just one Level 1 Channel Partner? Set a goal to deepen these partnerships and get more intentional and pro-active with each other. Your future business success will thank you.

For more information, contact Think BIG! Program, 512-686-3600.