About Wayland Bruns

Wayland founded CompanionLink in 1987 as The Jorf Company, a maker of shareware 4gl products. As a leading maker of CRM Add-On products, the company started with Sync Products in 1996 for the PalmPilot. As CEO of CompanionLink, Wayland strives to balance quality customer service, products with good value, low prices, and a positive workplace..

What Google People API means for Apps that Sync Google Calendar with Outlook

In Spring 2020, Google announced that they will shut down Google Contacts v3 API in 2021. The Google Contacts API is the connection a Sync App uses to move Contact Data from Outlook to Google (Gmail) Contacts. Google released the Contacts API in 2006 and v3 around 2012, so it has had a six-year life span typical for Google data APIs.

Google Calendar and Contact Sync with Outlook

Nearly all Apps that Sync Google Calendar with Outlook Calendar include a link for Contact Sync. This sends data from Outlook Contacts to Gmail Contacts. Most people rely on Google Sync to share Contacts and Calendar from their Gmail account and smartphone.

Microsoft Outlook lacks Google Sync Capability

Microsoft Outlook lacks a two-way sync facility for Google. You can set shared Calendars and Contact lists, but the method is arcane. More commonly, 3rd party apps like CompanionLink for Google provide an easy way of using Outlook and Google together. There are a range of products available, and they have varying capabilities. The critical thing to look for is whether real-time sync is supported. When you make a new appointment on your phone, does it come to Outlook automatically in just a few seconds? Also, are Outlook categories and calendar colors supported.

Google Contact v3 Deprecated

Google Contacts API v3 will shut down on June 15, 2021, five months away at the time of this writing. The Google People API, introduced four years ago, is replacing it. Most developers caution that the Google People API did not work well initially, so hopefully, Google has improved the API since that time.

Update Needed for Continued Service

Consumers need to be aware that any Google Outlook Sync product created before 2016 lacks support for the People API. Most products did not begin shifting until 2020, when Google announced the older API’s sunset date. A general rule is that if you have not installed a software update in the last four years, you should plan to get an update in 2021.

Here is a List of Google Calendar Sync Apps with status:

In general, most products will be on new revisions to support Google’s API change. If you have a purchased product, and your purchase was more than three years ago, you would be safe to assume an update is available for a reduced price from your vendor. Free and Open Source products (FOSS) will undergo revisions and continue to be a compelling choice for people who can tolerate beta software and do not need tech support.

Short Take

Google has a habit of changing their APIs every six years. If it has been a few years since you purchased or installed your Google Outlook Sync App, plan on doing it again in 2021.

Want to Optimize Your Website’s Speed? Here’s How

People tend to spend more time online these days. With almost everything we need are provided on the internet, it has become more of a necessity than just a pastime or leisure. Along with this, the amount of websites and online businesses on the web has risen too, and this caused major traffic and slowing on other sites. Fortunately, today’s internet speed has coped with this, and it’s still improving up to this day.

Studies show that in 2019, an average person spends almost 6 hours and 42 minutes on the internet. This is almost half of the time that we are awake, assuming that we are getting 8 hours of sleep. Because of this, one of the problems that remained is the speed of the websites themselves. Due to faster internet connectivity, people have become less patient while waiting for a page to load. 

To avoid such a dilemma, it’s necessary to know how to optimize your website to handle traffic and gain more enjoyable visits. 

Basic Things About Website Speed

How Fast Should a Website Be?

The recommended website speed by Google is under 2 seconds, at least for most eCommerce sites. Webpages load piece by piece and it differs for every site. There is a high probability that users will leave a page if it loads for more than 3 seconds

In the U.S., the average loading time is 15 seconds. It is even slower than the recommended time but still does the job. Having a website load slower than that can cause less traffic, and users won’t have the time for the page to load. This may result in a drop in ranking and other competitors will take this chance to take your spot and push you lower in the search list. 

What Affects Website Speed

Every element affects the speed of a website. The website size, which usually includes a lot of unique characters, may result in slower loading time. It is the same case for large files. They tend to be slower to download, and therefore may contribute to the occurrence of a problem in the process.

Sometimes, the problem is not the website, but your device’s internet speed. Still, a good website can withstand such circumstances and can still load despite the said issues.

How to Assess Website Speed

There aren’t many ways on how to determine the speed of your web pages other than using website speed evaluators (aside from the slow responsiveness whenever you try to load it). Here are some of the best tools to help you determine the improvements needed in your website’s speed:

Pingdom

This is a great tool for analyzing web speed. It determines the history of a website, makes directions on the optimization, and releases easy to understand reports. It is free to use, and they also have apps that you can use on your Android and iOS mobile phones.

GTmetrix

GTmetrix determines the elements that make your website slow, which is a good thing because you will know what you can do to improve the situation right away. It also provides accurate data results. You can even set alerts that will automatically inform you if your website begins to work slower.

YSlow

YSlow also summarizes every component of your site and gives you a report that includes recommendations on how you can improve its state. 

How to Improve Website Speed

Here are some of the ways you can do to improve the speed of your website:

Shrink Images

Images, especially the ones in larger sizes, can be a very heavy component for a web page to load. This often results in others not being able to view the pictures depending on the device and internet speed they have. You can still show pictures in HD but in lower sizes. This way, it will be easier to load and it won’t take that much for it to be seen by your visitors. 

Delete Cache

Caches are prearranged storage that stores temporary details to help websites, apps, and browsers to load at a faster rate. You will encounter it in almost every software. It expires after a certain amount of time and does not add to the loading process of a page. If it ever reaches beyond the recommended data, which can happen at some point, you can delete it without any consequences and make browsing at a faster rate.

Create an Intuitive Web Page Design

Yes, an excellent web design also helps in optimizing the speed of a website. For example, choosing the right font to use on the interface helps a page to load faster. In this case, Open Sans loads the fastest. According to the folks at somethingdesign.com, intuitive web design determines the visitor’s experience on the page. It also contributes to the increase in traffic and the speed of the page. 

Quality of an Intuitive Web Design

Responsive

A great web design responds to the user’s preferences. Whether it is the flexibility in terms of the orientation of the device or the screen size like in mobiles, it must be adaptable. The elements need to shrink or grow depending on what the situation is asking for. A great web design is versatile and can accommodate various users and visitors.

Consistent

Harmony is pleasing to the eyes. Consistency creates a distinct character in a website that the users will remember. It is the brand that will linger in most people’s minds after they visit the site. The limitation of the design to one common set also helps in a faster loading process. The less unique individual designs, the faster a page can process data.

Easy to Use

Complex web design is not attractive to users at all. It only creates confusion and this usually results in them not coming back to the website. This also means less traffic, fewer sales (for eCommerce websites), and less reliability for people seeking immediate results. 

Engaging

People have different preferences when it comes to the structure and design of a web page. Some like it more to be minimalistic, while some appreciate patterns and loud colors. Whatever design you choose, it is important to consider what is pleasing to the eyes of most users. Be creative and try something new. 

No one likes waiting, and that applies to websites as well. Every single second is important to keep your page in demand to visitors. Even if your website is informative and engaging, if it is slow and takes too much time to load, it will not attract many users. Keeping your page at a stable speed will not only be accessible and fun to visit for most people, but it will also increase the traffic that you need to be successful.

6 Reasons why Small Business does not Trust the Cloud

Small Business people live by the seat of their pants. They sole entrepreneur knows exactly how hard it is to build a customer list and market to those customers. Middle managers of large companies are hired into their position, maintain it for a period of time, then move on for career growth. This is an entirely different process than a small business owner who is fully invested in building the business from the first day.

One durable trait of small business people is that they do not trust external vendors to handle their core customer management functions. As shown in the chart by Forrester Research, despite 30 years of Cloud Based CRM products, a vast majority of small business still use a PC or On-Premise CRM solution for their core Contact and Accounting functions.

1. Not Sorry I’m Sorry Letters

Every small business owner has used an AOL or Yahoo account, and knows that online vendors are merely a target for hackers. What is worse, the online vendors take advantage of bias consumer protection laws and legal agreements that leave them with no responsibility for anything they do. Anyone who has spent years building a customer list gets completely frustrated to learn from an “I’m Sorry” letter that their customers were stolen and being marketed on the dark web.

2. Insatiable Costs

There is not a single SaaS product that is less expensive to own than a PC based product. Microsoft Office 2010 cost $199 for a perpetual license, Microsoft 365 costs $99 per year for the same features. QuickBooks 2012 cost $190, and QuickBooks Pro in 2020 now costs $299.99 per year. There is not a single common product that is less expensive as a SaaS than it was as a perpetual license. SaaS never saved anyone any money – it was used as a cover to provide less service for a higher price.

3. Unexpected Downtime

The promise of SaaS is that since they take care of the equipment, they will responsibly ensure there is no down time. The reality is that every service has down time and aside from pestering you with message about it, unexpected downtime is a serious cost to business. Whether it is a network backbone or local internet issue, a business that relies on internet service has a real vulnerability to uncontrolled downtime. A business based on in-house software may have a failed computer, but this is a fixable problem. Anyone who has sat for hours waiting for some uncontrolled event knows this.

4. Poor Technical Support

The past days of PC Software gave us a time when you called for technical support and received it. There was no guarantee of quality, as Franklin Covey learned when they outsourced their entire product team to India, and lost their product position in the market. But for the most part, you knew if you needed help you could get it on the phone. Today, no SaaS product provides adequate support. They merely listen to what you say and blandly tell you to try a different browser. It is impossible to reach someone who cares.

5. No Loyalty to Customers

Customers are often loyal to a product, but that loyalty is not reciprocated by SaaS vendors. They treat customers as throw away goods in their constant effort to charge more for less service. This comes in the form of email marketing that shows little concern for small business priorities, cost management or offers for the best price. Every small business knows the frustration of making a large purchase, only to see it go on sale shortly after – without any way to get credit for the sale price. To buy the wrong product and be told you cannot refund it (Apple -I’m looking at you!). SaaS vendors take zero responsibility for mis-information on their website.

6. Blackmail

Years ago, Blackmail was a crime. But with SaaS, every vendor has their moment where they inform their customer to cough up money now, or you will never see your data again. The heart of this is the ambiguity over who owns the data on the SaaS service. The customer has carefully curated and added the data, but the vendor may not reciprocate and provide robust tools to extract it or migrate it to another platform. This leads to a standoff where the SaaS vendor literally blackmails the customer when the customer attempts to regain control of their on contact and opportunity lists.

Blackmail is compounded by the short half-life of SaaS vendors. Every few years, a vendor change hands, and their careful customer support policies of “We will never sell your data” or “We pride ourselves on our service” changes overnight to a very cold “If you object to this you can end your service but never see your data again.” Check out Sunrise Calendar, SwiftKey Keyboard, or Picasa.

Summary

DejaOffice has disrupted CRM by introducing affordable On-Premise Customer Management. Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, History, Deals, Follow Ups and Sync to Android and iPhone built into a product that costs just $59 per user. Compare this to similar “low cost” SaaS products that are six times more costly and you cannot even call them if you have a question. If you run a small business, and have experienced any of the frustrations above, you will save time, money and frustration by switching to DejaOffice today.

DejaOffice PC CRM Pro
Average User Rating:
Average rating: 4.85 out of 5 based on 46 reviews.
Free 14 day trial. Price $199.95

Growing your Business Beyond the End of Hope

It is easy to forget the Wall Street Crash of 1929 was the first event of the Great Depression that peaked three years later in 1932.  As we hit the 120th day since the Virus shut us down on March 19, 2020, it is time to wonder, are we anywhere close to a turnaround, or are we merely four months into a three-year crisis?

Where we are now.

One month ago, things seemed to be controlled well enough that it had become livable.  Wall Street was discussing a V or U shaped recovery.  Now, in mid-July, talk turns to a W or L shaped recovery; that is, more hard times ahead.

Everyone I talk to is nervous.  The virus counts today are bad. The death counts, which generally lag virus counts by three weeks, are going up. There is nothing on the horizon to suggest these counts will get lower soon.  One Percent of the US Population has become sick and of those people 3.8% have died. At the current rate, by November, six million more Americans will have been sick, and another 200,000 will die of it. That is 1000 times the deaths on 9/11.

What Comes Next?

The Senate is stalled giving aid while Renters and Mortgage holders reach the end of their grace period.  I know of more than one person selling their house this month because they cannot afford the payments.  These trends portend a banking crisis ahead of us that will make 2008 look small.  Earnest Hemingway writes; “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Our Next Step.

This is a time to focus, to think clearly about the parts of the business that are working, and to leverage that to cover expenses.  Focus is difficult when self esteem is low.  Self esteem is low because the world is filled with difficulties that are beyond our coping skills.  It becomes easy to loop back on worry and become unable to plan.

Growth despite Obstacles

We need to grow our business.  We need to do it because that is what we do.  The world does not end just because we think the world is ending.  Our customers will continue on, and so should we. The best thing too remember is that all the obstacles we face in business, are being faced by our competitors. Our goal is to stay one step ahead of them.

Gaining focus

Focus is hard right now.  The distractions become an overwhelming fog of confusion. How can you plan business growth when the business conditions cannot be predicted?  But this is the same as the day you started your business, you had no idea what would happen.  The difference between then and now is your self-esteem and drive to succeed.

There is a saying; “To build self esteem, do esteemable things”.  I have found this to be true.  By helping others and by generously contributing, we gain back self respect, and the ability to focus.  In the big picture my finances are a disaster and there is no hope for the future.  But this month, and this week, I am doing fine, and the small amounts of time and money I can give out will mean a great deal to those I can help.

Toward Rebuilding

The foundation of recovery will be built on the small steps we take today to help other people, to help our customers, and to help our vendors.  Mutual help will bind us into a functioning economy.  Focus on this economy comes from being whole and being a contributor.

My Dad’s parents were married October 14, 1934.  It is hard for me to imagine two teenagers meeting, falling in love and getting married during the depths of the hardship years. The grim black and white pictures and the distant commentary do little to capture he meaning from that time.  But then, like now, every day ordinary people ate, and worked and slept.  The world recovered from the Great Depression and became 50 years of Pax Americana and prosperity.  The world will do it again. It is our choice now to become a leading participant.

Why Windows XP was better than Windows 10

Windows XP was released in 2001 as the successor to Windows NT. It was the geeky server version that contrasted with the consumer oriented Windows 95, which transitioned to Windows Vista by 2003.

Where Windows 95 was pioneering window transitions and soft look and feel, Windows XP was intended to be a more nuts-and-bolts interface. Less attention was spent on UI features and more attention on security and processing.

In retrospect, the key feature of Windows XP is the simplicity. While it encapsulated the beginnings of User Access Control, advanced Network drivers and Plug-and-Play configuration, it never made a show of these features. The relatively simple UI was easy to learn and internally consistent.

On the Windows 95 side, Microsoft spent years trying to make PCs user friendly, (Remember Microsoft Bob?) they have always failed in this endeavor. Instead of being simpler, they simply make UI controls that are harder to master; filmy and foamy layers on top of the simple core that is running the OS.

No wonder so many people hold on to their old XP computers long after the OS is insecure.

Windows 10 is a dog! There is no arguing that it is the worst OS experience ever created. Not only are there filmy and foamy layers, Microsoft is constantly updating it to force features that you do not even want. At least once a week we get a customer who reports their computer was completely bricked by a Windows 10 update. Windows 10 is a garbage heap mudslide. It is a costly time-wasting endeavor by Microsoft to try to establish that you somehow NEED to get updates every month for something other than the bug fixes required for the garbage they forced on you the prior month.

Turn off One-Drive, for instance, and you’ll find that two updates later, it is turned on again. Turn off Cortana, which no one uses, and two updates later it is not only back on, but it is sucking up 30% of your CPU making your computer run slowly.

With Windows XP, you could see in the system monitor that about 8 processes were running and they used less than 1% of CPU and disk bandwidth. For windows 10, there are more than 200 processes and they commonly use 30-50% of your CPU and disk IO. Whenever I start drilling down on these processes I can see they are features I never want; Cortana, One Note, Xbox Game Bar, Your Phone, Groove Music.

What Microsoft should do is run what their success. Offer a stripped-down simple OS. When people say I want Linux” they don’t actually mean the buggy hopelessly arcane OS created by Linus Torvalds. What they are saying is a simple basic UI and driver set that is fast, easy and stable.

Small Business 2020 –How do you spell Opportunity in a Recession

This week we paid the last payroll of the first quarter of the Virus. We have endured Shut Down, Financial Panic, Protests and Riots. We have learned to shop with a face mask on, issue staff policy for social distancing, and made a revised marketing plan for the year. What else could go wrong?

There are three things that still darken the horizon; Banks have insufficient reserves, Global Banking system is unstable, and the Virus is returning with force.

2008 Redux for US banks

The banks are in a position to repeat their 2008 melt down. In 2008 the culprit was CDO’s based on mortgage loans, at a time when a critical mass of people defaulted on their mortgages. Currently the risk is in CLO’s, a similar instrument based on Collateralized Business Loans. These instruments are held by Banks, and are dependent on payments by businesses. Those same businesses that are struggling to maintain sales and market share against a public that is socially distanced. The key time period is August 2020. When 2nd quarter earnings reports come in, CARES Act! funding has run out, mortgage relief, renter relief and unemployment relief will all be past their 90 day limits. If individual payments are not made then bank collateral will melt from the bottom up.

Global Banks under pressure

Globally, banks are dependent on their loan customers making payments. In addition, most global banks have substantial investment arms. As we get to August Earnings Season, we will get our first look at how these assets are performing. Areas of concern involve HSBC with substantial assets in China, Hong Kong, and also the largest bank in the UK. Since we no longer know what country Hong Kong is, putting treaty, import and export status on hold, several banks are highly invested in the HK economy. In addition, nearly every bank worldwide has substantial interest that Oil stay above $30 per barrel. As we saw with Cushing Crude in May, the $30 benchmark is not a given.

Virus Wave Returns

We are now seeing several states reporting substantial increases in Virus cases. The US as a whole was holding steady at 20,000 new cases a day for nearly five weeks. That number is rapidly moving higher now. The curve is rising. There is no question today that the virus is again out of control in half the US states, including our own. If the current rate of increases takes hold, we could see 50k cases per day by August, and discussion of a far more drastic shut down of the economy.

How to Plan for What Comes Next?

Is Congress going to play Santa, or Marie Antoinette? Are protests going to fade out, or strengthen? Will the US Treasury continue to spend taxpayer money to prop bonds and stocks (That’s Capitalism Baby!) Small business remains trapped between the disaster and the goodie bag.

Be careful, be grateful, and be patient. Only time will tell which decisions we make today will turn out to look smart in the future.

Small Business Blog – How to Navigate Crisis using Leadership and Durability

The Virus Crisis continues. In March we were told it would be a two-month shutdown. Here we are, two months later and consumers are not consuming. A month ago, they said that 60,000 people in the US would die. More than 108,000 Americans have died. Today there are 20,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths. Whether a city is “Open” or “Closed”, it is clear that people are not flocking to stores or other businesses. If you own a small business like I do, you need to set an expectation. How long does Small Business have to hold out?

The old Normal will never return

If you define normal as the day when parking lots and offices are full, when people are sitting in restaurants, and where face masks are in the past, then we will never get there. The world is changing in permanent ways. In my business, we have dropped our land-line business phones, moved nearly all our mail to online payments, and upgraded our staff home workspaces with business chairs, desks, headsets and related office style equipment. Magnify these changes by thousands of small businesses, and as the crisis moves from months to years, you can see that there is no going back. Now, we must learn to run our businesses for a different sort of “normal”.

This week, protests and social instability got added to the mix. These were always part of the mix, but suddenly they went from background to foreground. Who knew that ensuring the safety of my staff could become a hot political issue with customers? Innocent statements about human relations can have dire business consequences. An entrepreneur must now be a PR manager, a health manager, and a procurer of medical supplies. A simple office purchase of hand sanitizer has become a month-long ordeal.

Leadership

Some people crave leadership roles. However, they may be poor small business owners. The best entrepreneurs are often those with an expertise and a passion in a specific skill set, that they can market to customers. As they become entrepreneurs, they suddenly get a side-line job as leaders. We cannot skip this part of our job. It is neither our passion nor our expertise, but it is an essential part of the package. We must lead our staff and our customers, set expectations, deliver according to those expectations, and take responsibility if expectations are not met. We must carry this in our products, our services and our ethical standards.

Durability

For small business durability comes from frugal spending combined with generous customer skills. Our customers are the sole source of revenue. We can keep that source active by providing effective service and valuable products. When the customer saves money and gains satisfaction, they will happily recommend us. Frugal spending means monitoring all financial transactions to ensure they are the lowest required. Until there is profit, there is no room for luxury or glamor.

Ethics

When you look at the most hated corporations; Facebook, Comcast, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo, it is easy to see what is in common. Each of these companies use their market position to push individuals, without choice, into transactions with poor value. Facebook sells your private info, losing control of it, then taking no responsibility. Comcast raises their rates to provide dwindling content. Microsoft forces risky updates to give you features you do not want.

Free software and services is not the answer. The world is full of unsupported free software that never really works. Free computer service has value only if you do not value your time.

The ethical road is to travel between these two boundaries. Create value relationships with people willing to pay for that value. Make your service and product clear, with a clear price and generous refund and upgrade policy. Then you will be rewarded by loyal customers who will recommend your business.

Summary

My county will move to Phase 1 in a couple weeks and Phase 2 in about a month. But the Covid crisis will be with us through the Summer and beyond. Over time, virus will be less of a factor as social and economic trends grow in the looming election cycle. A new social and economic order will arise over time, and we cannot predict what it will look like.

Small Businesses who tap on Leadership and Durability will manage to retain customers and staff ready to grow into the next economic cycle.

Stages of Grief for Small Business in Crisis

Things are looking up! I’m feeling hopeful about the future.

It’s not the news. There is nothing to make anyone happy in the news. The Virus is grinding on – neither accelerating or decelerating. Politicians posture and push but nothing seems to be getting solved.

In places that are “Opened up” people are still staying at home. It looks like legislation is not having influence on the pace of the economy. The pace of the economy is awful; with 20% of the US Population out of work. Everyone is concerned about their budget and no one is spending freely. This makes business growth nearly impossible!

Stage 1: Denial

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the 5 Stages of Grief, the first of which is Denial. Most small business owners hit this stage sometime between February and April, as we pondered how this virus would affect us. The first week that sales were not as expected. The first time we felt fear that a loved one would be endangered by this virus. The first time we looked at our IRA and recognized that years just got added to our work-before-retirement plan. Our first reaction is that it cannot be happening!

Stage 2: Anger

Anger converts your internal pain and directs it outward. Surely someone, somewhere is responsible for this problem. Surely it is their fault that I am suffering. The virus is merely a bit of protein, and we do not get angry at a bit of protein as much as we do how other people respond. We are angry at people who endanger others, people who travel and the travel industry that allow the virus to spread. At governments who, even if acting in good faith, make announcements and rules that we do not agree with.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

If I get saved from this, I promise I’ll call my parents every week, be kind to my children, never raise my voice again. Please save me from the pain of not knowing what comes next, or how to navigate the business decisions. Should I apply for a loan or furlough staff? Do we place advertising to increase sales, or decrease costs by putting all expenses on ice?

Stage 4 – Depression

When your energy is spent, a quiet sadness descends. I do not even know how to handle the situation. Each day becomes an endurance race to cope with new phases of the crisis. I envy small business people who can smile through anything, comparing my insides to their outsides.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Kübler-Ross ends here stages on a hopeful note. Once you have accepted a loss, you can settle it and move on. This week I feel I’m reaching this phase, but then some news comes my way and I’m back to Depression and Anger.

Enduring the Covid Era

Our current problem is not a one-time loss but an ongoing disaster. Think about 9/11 when 3,000 people died in one day. This left a lasting scar on the national psyche, changed the nature of business travel, and changed the balance of federal spending between domestic and military spending.

Covid is taking 1,600 people per day currently, so a 9/11 every two days. And it is not ending. 10,000 people a week, 40,000 people a month. The scope of change in government spending, national priorities and the nature of our community is 100 times what we did in 9/11.

This a hinge moment, a generational shift, an epic event. It is so new we do not even have a name for it. In ten or twenty years, people will ask “what was it like during that time?” What will we say?

Navigating Your Business Forward

How do we move forward, even against the tide of the ongoing epidemic still coming in? Kübler-Ross gives us a blueprint. No need to hurry the stages. Move through them with self-care and understanding. Take time now to look with clear vision on what is happening now. Find your point of acceptance and start building on it.

I am coming to an understanding of what is motivating my customers right now, and how to fulfill small needs for them right now. For now, I can listen to their words and help the best I can. This will be my blueprint forward.

You would not be in Business if…

Small business is a mixed opportunity. You have complete control of your actions and a clear vision of how these actions become sales and solutions for your customers. It is the choice of an entrepreneur is to make less money and have more control.

You control yourself, and to some extent you can control your vendors and staff. Depending on your style you try to convince, force, cajole or entice these forces to align in your chosen direction. You have no control over the world at large, and to try to exert control will only sap your self esteem.

I am finding the tools are at my fingertips. I can make decisions that seem to bring light to those around me. At CompanionLink we have found some minor cost savings. We have purchased a small amount of equipment and furniture to upgraded our staff home workstations which improves our quality of life and quality of work. We are shifting our marketing and product strategy to focus on customers who are buying products right now.

These are small steps, but these are making business meaningful for our team. When the crisis stops spinning, we hope to be on top. It is the best we can do in an unstable economy.

Other articles in this series:

Small Business Success Planning in Spring 2020

As I write this, we are ending our second month of the full crisis. Everyone has gone grocery shopping with a mask on. Toilet paper is sometimes available in the stores. Many small businesses have received some sort of funding, and in many states the unemployment kicker has relieved the worst of the rental defaults and hunger. The world is coping. But our world is irrevocably changed. We now think every time we “walk through a door”, we don’t touch handles or elevator buttons, and we view all strangers with cautious distance.

How to Cope

The first problem for small business is to cope with what we have. It’s been two months of payrolls and excruciating decisions about cuts, expenditures, debt and payments. Whatever liquidity you had in March is with you for the long run. Your customer base, your weekly sales and your weekly costs are going to be set in stone until the crisis ends. My business tools are not sufficient. There is no way to plan when the picture changes monthly. There is no way to predict whether there will be more gifts from Congress, or more pain from Customers reneging on agreements.

When will it end?

People will not be “normal” until we can mix freely with strangers without danger. That means we must have herd immunity and it must be verified. Immunity might be conveyed by everyone getting the illness, or everyone getting a vaccine. It might also be conveyed by the new cases decreasing to such small numbers that we are confident strangers are virus free.

None of these things are going to happen in 90 days, and probably not in 2020. The logistics of a vaccine are staggering. If there was a vaccine today, it would take a year to create enough doses to vaccinate half the world population. Here in the US, a vaccine would be dedicated to high risk individuals for at least the first six months. With flu vaccine, it takes two weeks to take effect, and does not confer complete immunity. So we could well be into 2021 or 2022 before anything comes close to normal.

The Crisis Shapes our Future

In my view, the future is bright, but with painful changes. Connected Services are going to have a heyday – starting with Zoom but moving to everyone who can deliver business products online. The gig economy will shift as more people move into front-line delivery roles. Brick and Mortar will shrink dramatically as the simple act of walking in the door carries risk. A friend noted that Boeing has recently laid off 1200 engineers, and they will never be rehired. Without herd immunity in a year or two, high paying jobs that are tied to “walking int the door” will be lost forever. The economy will not crash, but will change profoundly as market sectors shift.

Opportunity for Business

The opportunity lies in re-calibrating and focus on new venues for sales. A catering friend says that they delivered 150 food boxes as a drive-by fundraiser for a charity. Both the charity and the caterer are struggling to innovate, and whether they succeed is not important. What is important is they worked together to test a new concept.

At CompanionLink, our loyal customers provide our best inspiration. We can work together to generate innovative ideas. My role is to put away my ledger and help my customers succeed. Their success will feed our success.

My competitors are in the same boat as I am. Suddenly it is time to benefit from years of free service or generous policies. Here at CompanionLink we have always had free tech support even to customers who spent minimal amounts of money many years ago. I am surprised today at how these people are so willing to support us by purchasing a low cost upgrade or suggesting a new avenue of business. (Thanks Guys!)  On the other hand, companies like Microsoft, Comcast and Verizon have spent the past half-decade raising prices and canceling service to past customers. I know people do not have the same level of loyalty to them as they had in the past.

Focus on Enjoying the Now

We are just two months in to what may be a five-year economic transition. The 1972 Stagflation crisis ended with IBM, Wang, and Dec replaced by Microsoft by 1978. The 2002 Dot-Com bust saw Novell, Symantec, Kodak and Blockbuster die, while Facebook, Amazon and PayPal were born. The trend looking forward is connectivity – helping customer achieve their goals without face-to-face meetings. Values, flexibility and efficiency will get you to that customer. Until then, we have today. Dogs and Children will still enjoy this day so take time to play with them. Plan and test new ideas, see what works, and move upward with your life. This is nothing I planned, but it gives me the opportunity to excel in new areas, and for that I am grateful.

Other articles in this series:

Three Online Resources to Apply for Payroll Protection Program Today

I am very frustrated by my local bank that they have not even invited me to apply for PPP.  However, a friend shared some online resources where I was able apply. So far I have two of these in “underwriting” but not signed yet.

As far as I understand, you can apply as much as you want.  Just be sure to only sign one.  I am still very confident that CompanionLink will get accepted and get funding for two months of our payroll. 

Today (April 16) funding is out until Congress and the Treasury make a deal. I am confident a deal will be made for this very important program.

Here are some other tips I have learned in my application process:

  1. The loan amount is 2.5 times 2019 Monthly payroll. The best number to use is from your W-3 form, line 5, plus State and Local Taxes line 17 and 19.  Although this is less than “Payroll” this is easy to prove because this is already on your W-3 Form.
  2. Document staff who earned over 100K in 2019, and subtract the Salary over 100k from your total.
  3. Make a PDF of everything, and store them on your Personal computer so you can reply to an email any time of day or night.  So far I have sent out the following documents; Canceled check, Drivers License picture front and back, Register from checking account, 2019 taxes as filed, 2019 Payroll statement, Payroll Statement from Feb 16 2020, W-3 from 2019, All W-2 and 1099 Misc from 2019, Corporate Founding Documents, 2019 941 Reports (4-quarters).

Kabbage

https://www.kabbage.com/ – Apply online

Fundera

https://www.fundera.com/ – Apply online

Ready Capital

https://readycapital.com/ – Apply online

BlueVine

https://app.bluevine.com/signup/ppp – Apply Online

Cross River Bank

https://www.crossriversba.com/ – Apply Online

And More…

If you have any more sites I will add them here, email me – wayland@companionlink.com

Other articles in this series:

3 New Revenue Sources for Small Business in the CARES Act

Small Business in the time of Virus – Turn Anxiety into Survival