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What Businesses Need as They Recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Q&A with Mark Papoccia,

Chief, Business & Consumer Banking

There are some important shifts that business owners should prioritize to help them adapt to the new economic environment. Mark Papoccia, Vantage West’s Senior Vice President, Business & Branch Banking, speaks to these changing business needs.

What are some shifts in priorities for businesses now, compared to the pre-pandemic business environment?

Now, more than ever, business owners need to focus on:

  1. Prioritizing e-commerce
  2. Making alternative payment options available
  3. Maximizing government assistance
  4. Attracting and retaining employees
  5. Mobilizing consumers to support local

What should business owners know about e-commerce?

Whether a business is expanding its e-commerce strategy or implementing one for the first time, there’s a learning curve for both the business and its consumers. But it’s worth it. In the January 2021 article, “The Importance Of e-Commerce For Small Businesses,” Forbes published: “The biggest draw right now for having an online store is that it gives stores an opportunity to connect with the customer base they have lost.”

They also point out that e-commerce provides businesses a direct line of communication with their customers, which cannot be interrupted by time or capacity constraints. In our Vantage West article, “How to Make the Most Out of the Post-Pandemic Rebound,” we list several of the most popular e-commerce services, depending on your priorities.

How are alternative payment options different than e-commerce?

Alternative methods of payment (AMOPs) are payment options other than cash. They can include credit or debit cards, cryptocurrencies, virtual wallets, payment apps, and loyalty program rewards or points. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, and PayPal are some of the most well-known AMOPs. Accepting them can be part of your e-commerce strategy, but also accepting AMOPs in your physical location provides flexibility to your customers.

You don’t have to jump into AMOPs by offering the ability to pay with all of them. Alternative payment methods vary in popularity according to business location, target customer, and consumer preferences. I recommend conducting market research and really getting to know your customers’ needs, then choosing one or two AMOPs to offer, as you begin your AMOP integration. The goal is to make doing business with you as convenient and natural as possible, removing hindrances for your customers, serving their needs, and increasing your cash flow.

What should business owners keep in mind regarding government assistance?

Business owners should stay informed about government aid available. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assisted many businesses by offering qualifying businesses low-interest, forgivable loans. It’s important to stay up to date on what options you have and how to maximize them. Every business has its own unique needs, so conduct research to figure out which one is best for you. To assist businessowners navigating the options, we listed some of the other programs in our article, “How to Make the Most Out of the Post-Pandemic Rebound.” 

How can businesses recruit and retain employees?

If you are a small business, you may not be able to compete with larger organizations on wages or benefits, but you can focus on differentiating yourself with other valuable benefits, such as:

  • Investing in employees’ career development
  • Offering work/life balance and flexibility
  • Developing or deepening a culture of belonging, comradery, and meaningful values

In a 2017 Harvard Business Review article, Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain wrote: “One of the most striking results we’ve found is that, across all income levels, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay: It is the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities at the company.”

As you build or rebuild your team, consider hiring candidates with potential rather than specific experience you may usually seek. In that vein, focus on target recruitment—recruiting from the groups or industries hardest hit by the pandemic. For example, think about hospitality and restaurants. Experienced professionals in these industries are likely to have a customer service mindset, detail-orientation, and fast-paced team approach to work. You can train the technical skills.

While focusing on recruiting, don’t forget retaining employees. Do what you can to focus on the well-being of your existing staff. Job burnout is on the rise. Indeed’s 2021 survey of 1,500 U.S. workers across varying age groups, experience levels, and industries reported that 67% of respondents said burnout has worsened during the pandemic. For some, they went into the pandemic already burnt out. For others, they said burnout lessened during the pandemic. If you can discover what your team needs and how you can help them, you can be a meaningful advocate for their mental health and job performance and satisfaction. If they’re happy and successful, they can also be a great source of recruitment for you—sharing their job satisfaction with their friends and family.

What can consumers do?

The most important thing consumers can do is to buy local and support local businesses. I know that’s not a surprise, but it is crucial as we rebuild our economy and do our part for our local businesses. Another important way we can all support local is by spreading the word when someone asks you for a referral.

Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about the local businesses you love. Signing up for newsletters, leaving positive reviews, following businesses on social media, and engaging with their posts are ways everyone can support local businesses. And businesses: Don’t be shy about asking for support. Let your customers know you need them. Consider events, promotions, or loyalty programs to help them keep you top of mind.

What is Vantage West doing to help local businesses rebound?

We partnered with the SBA to fund more than $27 million in PPP loans, helping our Members maintain over 2,000 jobs in Arizona. We also provided numerous Business Members payment deferrals as a means to help them with their cash flow during the pandemic. Additionally, we are continuously assisting many of our Members with alternative payment solutions as they shifted their operating model to react to the pandemic. Most importantly we are staying connected with our Business Members to provide them advice and guidance.

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