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How to Survive COVID-19 as a Small Business or Event Organizer



GUEST AUTHOR: RYAN KINTZ


Today I cover the best action steps small businesses and event organizers can take in order to ensure long time survival of your business or event during this COVID-19 crisis. Including how to suspend your loan and credit card payments, apply for SBA Disaster Relief funding, an alternative to being forced to layoff your employees, and more.

COVID-19 has been devastating for most small businesses. But for event organizers, promoters, music venues, and entities in the live events industry – COVID-19 has been a complete “show stopper.” Tens of thousands of live events have been shut down by the government and nobody knows how long the live events ban will last.


So RIGHT NOW is the time to do everything you can to help ensure your live events or your small business can sustain with low revenues (or no revenues) until this is over. I spent the past week talking to bankers, accountants, governmental agencies, other business owners, and other event organizers to develop a roadmap you can follow.

Even if your business has a decent amount of cash reserves like ours (Afton Tickets and Afton Shows), I still reccomend that you consider implementing these strategies as a proactive “safety back up” plan in case the current live events ban lasts 6 months or longer.


We are in dark times… Many events and businesses that I’ve talked to fear they won’t exist when this is all over. But you can do this. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are all in this together.


If you have any additional ideas or tips that I can add to this list, or if you have any questions I may be able to help with, email me at: Ryan.k@AftonTickets.com


DISCLAIMER: This article does not constitute legal advice or tax advice. Each state agency has different requirements and terms. Please check with your attorney, accountant, and your state specific agencies. These are suggestions only. Afton Tickets is no in way guaranteeing any specific outcome with these suggestions and tips.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. APPLY FOR SBA DISASTER RELIEF IMMEDIATELY.

  2. ALTERNATIVE TO COMPLETELY LAYING OFF YOUR EMPLOYEES.

  3. BANKS ARE SUSPENDING PAYMENTS DUE ON CREDIT CARDS, CREDIT LINES, LOANS, & MORE.

  4. SCRUTINIZE YOUR PROFIT & LOSS STATEMENTS & MONTHLY CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS.

  5. CHECK ON YOUR REFUND POLICY TERMS.

  6. DO ALL OF ABOVE FOR YOUR PERSONAL FINANCES! *Note: Potential to suspend your home mortgage payments.


#1. APPLY FOR SBA DISASTER RELIEF IMMEDIATELY.


The SBA Disaster Relief Loan program now is accepting applications from businesses affected directly by COVID-19. The U.S. Congress is pushing to get $500 Billion in funding to this program, and it’s possible they increase the funding even further. To put this into perspective, $500 Billion is enough to give 1,000,000 businesses a $500,000 loan. But as of right now, there is only $50 Billion of current funding. It’s on a first come, first served basis and it’s possible that the money could run out.


The benefits of an SBA Disaster Relief Loan include:

  • Loan terms of up to 20-30 years. This means monthly SBA loan payments will be much less than you’re used to versus a short-term 3-year or 5-year loan.

  • Interest rates could be as low as 2.75% for non-profits, and 3.75% for small businesses.

  • Small businesses can qualify for loans up to $2,000,000. After you apply, the SBA will calculate out the loan amount you qualify for.


SBA Disaster Relief Loans can be used during this crisis to pay business expenses, office rent, employee payroll, etc. The SBA has said you can also consolidate other debt you have with other banks or credit cards. By doing that, you will significantly lower your total monthly debt payments and save money with the lower SBA interest rate.

  1. TO APPLY: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

  2. Click on the “Apply for Assistance” or “Apply Online” button.

  3. Register for an account. Then you can login to the account and it will save your progress on the application if you get kicked off or the site goes offline (which it will many times).

  4. Start the application and finish it.


WHAT YOU NEED IN ORDER TO APPLY.

  1. Your EIN number or business tax ID number.

  2. Tax Returns for each business for 2016, 2017, 2018. They are not requiring tax returns from 2019 unless you already have them completed. If you don’t have 2019 tax returns completed yet do not worry you won’t need to include them in that case.

  3. (1) 4506-T form for each business owner and for each business. You should download the paper forms now and date and sign them so that when you get to this part of the online application you are ready to upload the completed documents.

  4. UPDATE: Now the application is requiring an additional signed form called a P-019. For this you’ll need to have the last 12 months of gross sales revenue and the last 12 months of your cost of goods sold.

You can find the 4506-T and P-019 forms at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/PaperForms


TIPS FOR FILLING OUT THE SBA LOAN APPLICATION.


It’s going to ask for a personal financial statement of each business owner. You will do this online, but be ready to provide personal debts owed to which banks, amount owed, and monthly payment. Any and all personal assets or liabilities including your life insurance information, your mortgage account number, etc.


An SBA officer on the phone (after being on hold for 3 hours) told one of my entrepreneur friends that additional information can be helpful to prove the direct effects of COVID-19 to the SBA. This SBA officer recommended the following:


  • A personal letter from the business owner explaining in detail the direct losses and impact COVID-19 has had. You want to stand out amongst all of the other applications as much as you can. Put this on official company letterhead.

  • A Balance Sheet for each company showing all current assets and all current liabilities.

  • A “EIDL Supporting Information (P-019)” form that includes the monthly sales revenues of each company for each month of the past 36 months. Page 2 of this form allows you to show what estimated revenues and expenses are for the next 6 months (you fill in the date range) so that the SBA can see your actual estimated losses during the date range you anticipate COVID-19 affecting your revenues.

  • IMPORTANT: Where do you upload these additional documents? There is NO upload option in the application. So what other business owners have told me, is they created 1 PDF with ALL of these additional documents as pages within that 1 PDF file. Make sure the 1st page of this PDF is your businesses’s completed and signed 4506-T FORM. Then you can upload this entire PDF with your 4506-T business with the above additional documents as subsequent pages of that PDF into the part of the application that is called: Complete and sign each Request for Transcript of Tax Return (IRS Form 4506-T) shown below. This income information, obtained from the IRS, will help us determine your repayment ability.


I would also recommend after you complete your application to email the SBA these additional documents as well: disasterloans@sba.gov


THE SBA DISASTER RELIEF WEBSITE IS SLOW & BUGGY!

  1. Use Firefox browser or Microsoft Explorer. The SBA has said other browsers (safari, chrome, etc) do not work well with their site.

  2. Try to do your application ASAP. But their site is overloaded and is very slow to load. Be patient. It took one business owner I know 3 hours to submit an application for each of her companies.

  3. Do not make any mistakes or omit anything! The SBA has said applications that are incomplete or have errors will be sent to the back of the line. Triple check everything.

  4. You may have to hit the back button on the browser, refresh the page, or close the browser and log back in. Once you create an account it saves your progress. You can also try to do your application during non-peak hours at night.

  5. The File Upload was not working for several days, now it looks like it is fixed. If this is broken when you submit, your options are to wait until they fix it again, or you can check a box that says you will email them your documents.


As of March 21, 2020, states with declarations include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. If your business is in one of these states you may apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. If you are unable to apply online, you may download an application at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, under the Loan Information tab.


If your state is not on this list, I reccomend you check the SBA website everyday (or more often) because it’s 1st come 1st serve. So if you’re one of the first businesses once your state is eligible to apply you will be ahead of the line for your state.

The sooner you complete your application the further ahead of other businesses you will be. So if you need SBA Disaster Relief do this immediately.


CONTACT INFO FOR THE SBA

Phone: 1-800-659-2955

Hold times are 45 minutes up to 2 hours. I’ve heard reports of people being on hold for an hour and then the SBA phone system hangs up. Their phone systems are overloaded.

Email: disastercustomerservice@sba.gov Email: disasterloans@sba.gov

SBA email inboxes came back last Friday as “mailbox is full.” Response times via email are taking up to 7 days or longer. Their staff is completely overloaded.


#2. ALTERNATIVE TO COMPLETELY LAYING OFF YOUR EMPLOYEES.

**BEFORE YOU LAYOFF YOUR EMPLOYEES READ THIS SECTION!**

The state of Oregon has a program called “Oregon Work Share.” Here’s how this works. Oregon Work Share is our state’s program to help employer’s AVOID full layoffs. With Oregon Work Share, the employer chooses which employees to cut down 40% of their hours.


In this case, the employer only pays 60% of the employees’ normal wages, and the Oregon Employment Department, through Work Share, pays those employees 40% of their full unemployment benefits. The thinking here is, if they can help you AVOID laying off 40% of your work force, and keep most employees through Work Share, than that is a big win for your employees and for the state in general.


TIP: Call your state’s employment office or google to find what the equivalent is in your state to Oregon Work Share. It may be called something different, but you should have something like it in your state.


ADVANTAGES OF WORK SHARE FOR EMPLOYEES.

  • Rather than being laid off completely they still work for your company with reduced hours.

  • The Oregon Employment Department will not force your employees to look for another job if they are on Work Share with reduced hours.

  • Typically, a laid off employee only gets about 50% of their normal wages through unemployment. With Work Share, the employee will earn “approximately” 75% to 79% of their normal wages. So about a 21% to 25% cut in their normal wages. But that’s much better than a 50% income cut that a complete layoff would incur.

  • The employee has more free time off, working 24 hours per week instead of 40 hours per week.


ADVANTAGES OF WORK SHARE FOR THE EMPLOYER.

  • The employer saves 40% of the normal wages for each employee.

  • The employer still employs employees on Work Share, so they are not forced by the Oregon Employment Department to look for another job.

  • The employer decides each week on who is on or off Work Share. So there is no long-term commitment. Even if you are forced to do full layoffs later down the road, this is a great interim program to help lessen payroll expenses.

  • This is helpful if workload has decreased during COVID-19 and employees don’t really have 40 hours of work to fill their time with.

  • You can potentially avoid full layoffs for key employees you need to keep/retain.


REQUIREMENTS: You must have at least 3 or more employees on Work Share. Full-time employees must have been full time for at least 1 year. Part-time employees must have been part-time for at least 6 months.


ROUGH NUMBERS ON HOW THIS COULD WORK:

Employee A annual salary is $30,000 = Monthly Payroll Cost $2,500 Employee B annual salary is $60,000 = Monthly Payroll Cost $5,000 Employee C annual salary is $90,000 = Monthly Payroll Cost $7,500

Employer puts Employee A, B, and C on Oregon Work Share and reduces full time hours by 40%, so each employee now works 24 hours per week.

Employer now pays with Work Share:

Employee A Monthly Payroll Cost: $1,500 Employee B Monthly Payroll Cost: $3,000 Employee C Monthly Payroll Cost: $4,500

Employer in this example now has a $9,000 monthly payroll with Oregon Work Share versus their normal $15,000 monthly payroll. So that’s $6,000 saved per month for this employer. Work Share potentially saved this employer from having to completely layoff Employee A and Employee B.


Employee approximate earnings on Work Share: Exact numbers can vary, but from various calculations through the Work Share calculator and from reports from several business owners I spoke with, employees are seeing a 21% to 25% decrease in total wages when put on Work Share. Because Oregon Work Share sends a check to each employee to makeup for some of their reduced hours.


EMPLOYERS CAN APPLY FOR OREGON WORK SHARE HERE: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Unemployment/Pages/Work-Share-Program.aspx


#3. BANKS ARE SUSPENDING PAYMENTS DUE ON CREDIT CARDS, CREDIT LINES, LOANS, & MORE.


If your business owes any money on credit cards, credit lines, cashflow lines, or long term loans – you need to know about this!


Right now, every major bank is giving “forebearance” on monthly loan payments. This means they are basically suspending your loan payment (you don’t have to pay it) IF YOU CALL YOUR BANK AND REQUEST THIS.


DO NOT just stop paying your minimum payments. You have to call into your bank (it may take 30 minutes to 1.5 hours of being on hold) and request this in order to not get penalized.


Make a list of every single minimum payment you owe on any business debt along with which bank that debt is held at. Then call down the list and keep track of which payments you successfully got suspended and put into forbearance.


IMPORTANT: Banks are requiring in most cases, that you call back EACH MONTH to get the next month’s payment suspended. If this is the case, make sure you know which date you need to do this again by for each loan payment. If you forget to do this each month, they will charge you the minimum payment.


One business I talked to didn’t have a large amount of debt for a business their size. But they were paying the following minimum payments each month:

  • Credit Card #1: $153 minimum payment

  • Credit Card #2: $249 minimum payment

  • Cash Flow Line #1: $1,486 minimum payment

  • 5-Year Loan: $2,266 minimum payment

  • Credit Card #3: $49 minimum payment

TOTAL MONTHLY MINIMUM PAYMENTS: $4,203.00 By calling in and doing this, this business saved $4,203.00 per month during this crisis which could cover their office lease/rent or potentially allow them to keep 1-2 more employees on payroll with Oregon Work Share.


BANKS SAY THAT PAYMENTS WILL STACK UP – BUT… Right now banks are saying when a minimum payment goes into forebearance, at the end of this crisis you’ll need to pay those payments. So they will “stack up” and be owed later, in theory. So be prepared for that. HOWEVER, there is a possibility that the government provides funding programs to wipe away these stacked up suspended payments, or that the government will end up forcing banks to forgive these stacked up payments. Nobody knows for sure. At the end of this crisis, if we all find out any suspended loan payments in forebearance somehow get forgiven – the businesses that did not bother calling in to suspend their loan payments are going to have a lot of regrets.


#4. SCRUTINIZE YOUR PROFIT & LOSS STATEMENTS & MONTHLY CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS. CUT ALL THAT YOU CAN.


Now is the time to pull up your Profit & Loss Statements from the past 3-6 months. Look at every single business expense line by line. You can’t properly plan without this information. This will show which areas you can cut spending on, decrease spending on, or what large expenses need to be looked into.


Also go into your online banking portal and look at every single transaction on every business credit card for the past 60-90 days. This will show you which vendors or services are on auto-payments and will show you what else you’re spending your money on.


Examples:

If you’re paying $750 for your server hosting each month, will that vendor allow you to suspend payments like the banks are doing? Or, with lower web traffic during COVID-19 can you back down your server costs at 40%?


If you typically send a lot of emails with Mail Chimp, but during COVID-19 your email sending is going to be 50% lower, look into downgrading your email sending provider plan so you’re not overpaying.


What can you cut for now? Office janitorial services? Downgrade your internet speed or cut TV products? Which software as a service subscriptions can you live without temporarily? Try to negotiate with any vendors or long-term contracts you have – it’s worth a shot and in most cases will probably work!


A $49.99 per month subscription service may seem like a drop in the bucket, not huge savings. But if you identify 15 or 20 expenses like that you’re going to be saving almost $1,000 per month.


It’s all about budgeting! You’re probably not eating out at restaurants as a company expense like you use to. You already know that. But have you calculated out exactly how much your company credit cards will save by not eating out at restaurants? If you know that will save the company $1,200 per month – that’s 1/3 of one of your employees salaries.


Lastly, after you do all of this. WATCH your banking statements and credit card statements each week. This will help you see exactly how much money is being spent with limited business operations. If your normal operating expenses for the business are $89,000 per month, it’s valuable for you to learn over this next 1-2 weeks that during “COVID-19 CRISIS MODE” your business is only going to be spending $24,000 per month after all of your cost cutting and strategy is in place. Then you can calculate out how long your business can sustain itself based on your remaining lines of credit and the SBA Disaster Relief Loan you are applying for.


#5. CHECK ON YOUR REFUND POLICY TERMS.


Now is the time to review, word by word, your official company refund policy. Are the exact same refund policy terms matching in all areas your customers can view them? Do you know all of the areas that customers can view your refund policy? (Website terms, checkout terms, email receipts, FAQ’s, etc). If you are a live event or event organizer, do you know what the refund policy is with your ticketing provider? Now is the time to find that out!

Is an Act of God specifically guaranteeing refunds to everyone? Or does an Act of God such as COVID-19 in your refund policy or your ticket provider’s refund policy specifically indicate that refunds are not given, but a reschedule date will be given which the tickets will be honored to?


You need to know this so you can effectively handle any customer complaints or issues or refund requests.


This is also the time to ask yourself, “Does my Refund Policy protect me enough?” It’s too late for a revamped Refund Policy to take effect to any past purchasers. However, if you find that your Refund Policy says that an Act of God grants a full refund – and you don’t want that to be the case anymore? Change it right now. So that all future orders will have the terms applied that you want to have in your Refund Policy.


#6. DO ALL OF ABOVE FOR YOUR PERSONAL FINANCES!


All of the above should also be done for your personal finances. Obviously, all of them except for the SBA Loan and the Refund Policy.


Checklist for personal finances:


HOUSE MORTGAGE: SUSPEND PAYMENTS! If you own a house, call into your bank immediately. There are talks in Congress about giving a 3 month 12 month suspension on house mortgage payments, and if that passes you need to be ahead of the line. When you call your bank mortgage lender, specifically explain how COVID-19 has affected your ability to pay your mortgage via your business losses. I am told right now banks are “coding” your account when you request this so that as soon as the banks and the U.S. government decide what they are doing you will be contacted first. How much easier will it be to sustain your business throughout the COVID-19 crisis if you get your house mortgage payments suspended? That’s a huge savings in your monthly expenses.


Note: Nobody knows for sure. But there are talks that banks will suspend house mortgage payments for 3-12 months, with a possibility that you won’t owe those payments and they won’t stack up. The best case scenario is banks decide to just add those payments to the end of your mortgage, and not make you pay back the suspended payments when COVID-19 ends. The worst case scenario is the suspended payments stack up and when COVID-19 crisis is over and business is back to usual you can make those payments. Either way, it seems like not having to pull cash out of your business to pay your personal house mortgage is a pretty big win.


PERSONAL CREDIT CARDS Like I discuss up above, call each credit card company and ask to suspend payments. The same goes for any personal loans or personal lines of credit.


PERSONAL EXPENSE BREAKDOWN Look through all of your credit cards and your checking account, transaction by transaction for the past 60-90 days. Find out what you can cut. Do you really need your HBO or Spotify subscription right now?


LOOK INTO A REFINANCE OF YOUR HOUSE MORTGAGE! Right now, the Fed has cut interest rates to almost 0.00% for lending to banks. Take advantage of this immediately. Call your mortgage lender and ask what REFINANCE options are.


Doing this ASAP is important for a key reason: The refinance underwriters are going to look at your most recent pay stubs and your W2 income from the past 2 years. So starting your refinance immediately ensures that you have W2 income to show them before you potentially get laid off from your job, or get your hours cut down. If you wait and try to refinance later on and you have lost your job it will be hard to get a refinance approved. It’s also important to do this ASAP before your credit scores decrease if you expect to lose your income soon or are not able to service your existing debt payments. IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

  1. Ask if the refinance can be done with $0 up front cost. Friends of mine have been able to wrap the closing costs into the new mortgage and pay $0 up front costs.

  2. Ask how much lower your monthly total mortgage payment will be. I’ve seen several cases where my friends are saving 10% to 20% of their total mortgage payment which is a huge monthly cash savings.

  3. You can ask for a CASH OUT OPTION. This allows you to take out cash from your mortgage equity (so you are borrowing from yourself so to speak, on equity you have int he house) however this cash out option amount will be put into your new mortgage refinance with a super low interest rate and on a 30 year term. You can use this cash as a “safety cushion” to pay expenses, or you can use this cash out to PAYOFF another high interest or high monthly payment loan. For example, if you use the cash out option to pay off your car loan and that eliminates a $400 per month car payment, you just saved yourself a lot of money on your monthly expenses. You know your finances best, but this is a valuable tool to lower not only your house mortgage payment but also your other monthly expenses in general.

  4. Make sure you get a FIXED LOAN. Do not do a variable APR or an ARM loan that is interest only because your monthly payment could skyrocket. You want a FIXED LOAN so your APR interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan.


Also consider, with so many employees being laid off and with our entire economy being shut down due to COVID-19, I see a very unlikely chance of being able to sell your house if you get in financial trouble. Everyone will be trying to sell their house, and there won’t be many buyers in this market. So you want to think about cutting your monthly expenses as much as possible so you can sustain your monthly mortgage. This could affect home prices as well, so the longer you wait to refinance risks that when you go to refinance later the appraisal value of your home is way less than it would be right now.


ANY OTHER IDEAS TO SHARE?

I hope this helps get the gears turning. There is no sure fire method to sustaining your event or business throughout this unprecedented crisis. But hopefully the tips we’ve put together can help you survive this. Our economy needs you, we all need you. Leave a comment if you found any of our tips helpful and we’d love to hear what else you’re doing with your business or live event if it’s a new idea we haven’t covered yet!


This Article Originally Appeared On Afton Tickets Blog. View it Here: https://aftontickets.com/blog/how-to-survive-covid-19-as-a-small-business-or-event-organizer/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ryan Kintz is founder and CEO of Afton Tickets and Afton LLC. Ryan is an event organizer, event producer, concert promoter, and business owner. Afton Tickets clientele includes fairs, festivals, beer/wine/food festival, and concerts and events that range from 500 to 100,000+ attendees. Ryan has worked with hundreds of event organizers and event planners, over 800 music venues, and tens of thousands of music artists.