MLK March 09

Community members march from the Marshall White Center to the Ogden Amphitheater to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

Last year presented some of the greatest challenges Ogden small business owners have faced. Unfortunately, there has been a disproportionate effect on diverse-owned businesses, including those owned by Black and African American entrepreneurs.

As Black business owners continue to look ahead this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there are some key considerations that can be made to plan for a future where certainty is categorically uncertain.

Challenges obtaining credit

Surveys specifically highlight what has continued to be an issue for Black and African American business owners: access to credit. These owners reported the highest levels of both current and predicted future difficulty accessing credit compared to other segments surveyed.

In looking for a solution, it must be acknowledged that the financial services industry in Utah as a whole needs to continue addressing this problem. Diverse-owned businesses have more challenges ahead as they stage a comeback.

They are often smaller in terms of number of employees, payroll and startup capital, and they may not have established banking relationships. These factors make them more susceptible to economic downturns, and they will need greater access to capital and innovation to be resilient in this pandemic.

One important step owners can take is to know their options.

In addition to traditional lending, working with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) in Utah can provide additional avenues to access capital.

Supporting these institutions and their mission is at the heart of the creation of Wells Fargo’s Open for Business fund, which has been providing additional funding for these institutions to continue their important work.

Flexibility and leadership

Another key consideration (and opportunity) for business owners is recognizing when and how to pivot.

Thinking about how the experience of customers has changed can help to understand how to best serve their needs, based on where they are now. This can lead to important planning for how operating models, marketing plans and even physical spaces need to adjust.

It’s also an opportunity for small business owners to be leaders in our community. Some ways to go about being that leader include being very communicative with employees and customers about what business owners are doing, putting those people first in your approach to pivoting, and sourcing practical information and having that inform their actions.

There’s little about the future that seems predictable right now. But a good place to start is with the things that can be controlled: how to think about customers’ needs and work to meet them, being a leader in our community and understanding what tools are available.

While guaranteeing success is a tall order for any small business right now, taking these steps can move the needle in the direction it needs to go as the future unfolds.

Jim Erickson is a Region bank president for Wells Fargo in Utah. For more information on how to navigate the current environment as a small business owner, visit the bank’s Small Business Resource Center at https://smallbusinessresources.wf.com/

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