More states and counties are being added to the list of active stay-at-home orders every day. We know it can feel paralyzing when the government tells you that your business has to go dark. That’s why we put together this list of practices to help you keep moving forward.
Contact Your State/Local Government To Petition Being Considered An Essential Business
Right now, the major automotive associations are fighting to make dealerships fall under the “essential business” category nationwide.
From our understanding, some areas have officially labeled dealerships as essential business. This is a fight I strongly believe the automotive industry will win. After all, people have to get around. They may be fighting the virus on the front lines in health care or making sure everyone continues to have access to essentials in grocery stores and through deliveries. Or maybe they just need be able to get back on the road when this thing is over. But the truth is, they have to be able to get to work if they’re going to stay on the front lines. And lots of things can happen, accidents, breakdowns, etc.
The Coronavirus is only one of many emergencies a family may encounter during this time, and I think it is sensible to believe that having a form of reliable transportation is essential to every family’s way of life.
Here is a link explaining the steps NADA and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation are currently taking: https://www.autonews.com/dealers/nada-alliance-others-urge-trump-classify-dealerships-essential.
But don’t wait for them, start contacting your state and local governments now to raise the signal and, hopefully, get things moving faster.
Research What You Are and Are Not Able To Continue Doing Remotely—And Pivot If You Can
Some areas say that it is 100% permissible for you to continue your business, if you can do it remotely. That means that now is not the time to stick your head in the sand. Even if your area has stay-at-home orders in place, you may be able to do work remotely. Look into it. See what’s compliant. And then it’s time to get creative.
If your area allows you to continue to support your customers remotely, let your customers know you are flexible, that you can do a lot of the work over the phone and via computer. If hands-free delivery is an added option, use that. The key here is that you have to think outside the box and try to leverage any opportunity that will allow you to keep doing business.
If remote sales isn’t an option, you may need to pivot. What are other possible revenue streams? Can you pump up your service department? Businesses across the country are finding new ways to continue to provide value. You can do it too!
Look Into SBA 7(a) Loans
As you may have heard, President Trump recently announced an unprecedented $50 billion (now raised to $300B) that will be added to the SBA lending authority in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These government loans are offered by a limited number of institutions. In fact, there are only 14 nonbank lenders licensed to make SBA 7(a) loans. These loans could be business-saving for many small business owners, including yourself and especially if your dealership has been forced to close due to a stay-at-home order. Start looking into it now, so you aren’t at the back of the line.
Tweak Your Messaging
People hoard during crisis.
The psychology behind it is actually quite interesting. It’s a natural instinct to try to gain control over a situation that feels dangerous and uncertain.
But even though people are clearing out grocery store shelves and buying up 17,000 rolls of toilet paper, they are also going to be inclined to save whatever they can that will offer them a sense of security. In some instances, this could mean that they aren’t willing to make any big-ticket purchases. But there is still an opportunity in this crisis for both your potential customers and for your business. We don’t want to sound insensitive to the current situation. People are getting sick, some people are even dying, but as a business owner who understands that this will eventually pass, it would be irresponsible not to be aware of the opportunities here as well.
It’s important, during this time more than ever, that you help people understand why this is an ideal time to buy. Banks are still lending. The Fed has cut interest rates. There is opportunity here for the customers who want or need to upgrade their vehicle do so. Make sure you’re giving value first by educating them about what’s going on while positioning yourself as someone who wants to help.
Position Yourself And Your Dealership To Take Full Advantage Of The Snapback
You are faced with a decision right now. You can cut all your marketing and advertising right now, or you can grasp the bull by the horns and become the dominant voice in your area…whatever media it is you choose to leverage.
Guess what? We were just faced with the same decision: should we pause our advertising or adjust strategy and press on? Well, we made a little adjustment to our message to increase relevancy and our COST PER LEAD plummeted. If you’re not tuned into THAT FREQUENCY, you are missing a real opportunity to not just survive this mess, but be thriving on the other side.
Be Confident That This Won’t Last Forever
In times of crisis, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business is to remain calm. You have to be confident that this won’t last forever. In fact, it may not even last as long as some people are forecasting.
The key here is that you have to actually believe that this is temporary. If all of the craziness in the media and sensationalism has got you questioning this, the first thing you need to do is take a time out and remind yourself, from a logical perspective, that everything in life is temporary. Here are two articles that might help you do just that…
This article communicates Michael Levitt’s predictions that this thing won’t last nearly as long as many epidemiologists are saying. Why should you trust him? Levitt is a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist who correctly forecasted the impact of COVID-19 in China.
Did you know that the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1) was a pandemic? I didn’t. I guess the media didn’t see fit to scare the bejesus out of everyone back then, and there was little political motivation to tank the economy. Between April 12, 2009 and April 10, 2010 the CDC estimates swine flu caused 60.8 million illnesses, 273,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. Globally, an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people died from swine flu in the first year of the pandemic.
Now, I will say, I have found conflicting data about the numbers of people impacted by the disease — but all the sources I have checked indicate that A LOT of people, worldwide, got sick and died. I barely remember this. Do you? I know that dealerships were open for business, and our members were selling a bunch of cars!
OK, so, what’s the point?
My point is this: Yes. This sucks. But we will get through it. It won’t be as terrible as the fear-mongers would have you believe. And you should not dismantle your business in response to this. Don’t panic and start scrapping everything. Don’t destroy relationships with employees and partners you’ve built up over time. We’re expecting stimulus that will help defray labor expense. Loans are becoming available that will help with payroll and possibly even rent. There’s some indication that portions of the loans that are used to cover certain expenses will be completely forgiven. Hang tight. Wait for more information. And keep doing whatever you can to prepare yourself for when this thing blows over.
The dealers we work with have really been ramping up conversations in our members-only email discussion forum. They're focused on doing whatever they can to squeeze any available opportunity out of the current situation, but they’re already putting plans in place for how they will respond once this thing blows over. The general consensus: you have choice. You can either mash the gas pedal or pump the breaks. If you don’t want to be left in the dust, the choice becomes clear.