When the going gets tough, local businesses get going
As a longtime business owner in the Triad, I have always been a big supporter of backing local companies and following the principle of “give where you live.” But as we all know, relationships are a two-way street. And right now, as we grapple with this unprecedented crisis caused by COVID-19, I am seeing local businesses step up and give back to their customers in ways that are both practical, and inspirational. As the saying goes: In bad times, you find out who your real friends are.
Since the beginning of this crisis, the team at my business has been making an effort even more than we normally do to help our customers. In some cases, we have gone so far as to offer free services to support remote workers. But my goal is not to shine the light on our own efforts, but on the efforts of our small community bank.
My story began with the recent announcement by the federal government of more than $2 trillion in economic support for Americans, and $350 billion in economic support for small businesses guaranteed by the SBA. It was shortly after the announcement that I received a call from my banker at First Bank in downtown Greensboro. He reached out to me about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Paycheck Protection Program. In case you are not aware, these programs are designed to quickly provide small businesses with funds so they can meet payroll and ultimately keep their employees at work or bring them back to work if they have been temporarily laid off.
This information was very helpful. While I had heard some news on the program, I was not familiar with the details. What my banker did next, however, made an impression on me that I will never forget. This is what he did that inspired this article: Through text messages and phone calls, my banker kept me updated on a daily basis about the program’s changing requirements and guidelines. This was not something he was obligated to do, and it was not part of any contract or arrangement. Nevertheless, he felt that it was his duty to ensure that my business would be ready to take advantage of the program if and when we needed to.
In a perfect world, this would be how all banks operate, but this is not the case. Many larger banks have come under criticism for their handling of PPP loans. In some cases, the outcome has been customers being turned away from the program. Often times, small businesses are sent to a bank’s website and instructed to complete a form and then sit and wait for a call from a contact center agent on what to do next.
Now, I’m not here to bash the big banks. I am here to applaud and honor my community bank for doing what every local business should be doing right now: discovering plans to help their customers survive this difficult time and emerge strongly positioned for the recovery that I believe is coming sooner rather than later. What makes me so confident? Because I know in my heart that when the going gets tough, local businesses will get going. With this attitude and energy, we will power our recovery and usher in a new era of prosperity and growth.