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COVID-19: Massive list of resources for Texas professionals

(BUSINESS NEWS) This is a resource list compiled to help any business tackle the various challenges that coincide with a global pandemic like COVID-19.

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Austin skyline

Well, that escalated quickly. We were saddened by the cancellation of SXSW which for 34 years has brought thousands of people to Austin to celebrate interactive, music and tech. Many entrepreneurs, artists and small business owners thrive on their exposure and sales during this two-week festival. Many bars, restaurants and shops rely on this additional foot traffic each year.

Some amazing person quickly pulled together ilostmygig.com where people could report in about the wage, they were losing due to the cancellation of the festival.

Not much later, we may have been complaining about our daily commutes in Austin traffic and the next told that our workplaces were closed, and we would need to start having meetings on Zoom, Skype and MS Teams and work remotely for an indefinite time.

Schools and daycare may have also been closed, with not much notice, so people are balancing doing this new work from home all the time while having a child/children home too. Others in Austin were not sure what their workplaces would do and sat by their emails at 11pm on Sunday night.

We know this sudden shift in our daily lives hurts. This hurts everyone whether you’re a full-time employee, small business owner, local artist and maker, restaurant/bar owner and/or self-employed. A Small Business Friends ATX group quickly pulled together a webinar with resources for their community and we have permission to share here. Many of these are also an attempt to support some of our small business owners in our world here in Austin, TX.

We hope this list provides you with some great ideas and/or resources to do while the world around us in uncertain. This is by no means an exhaustive list (and is highly relevant to Texas) but could also offer you ideas to seek out in your community. Either way, it’s a great demonstration of the power of community – whether in real life or online.

Erin Wike, Career Coach and Lecturer at UT Austin, Owner of Cafe Con Resume and Small Business Friends ATX Co-Founder (Austin-based owner):

TEXAS – Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Disaster Unemployment Assistance During or After Natural Disasters

Design Your Life Workbook – If you need some help with design thinking prompts and guidance on how to explore new opportunities in your business, this guided workbook helps you to draw out what potential there is in an easy format and at your own pace.

Super U Podcast (also on Spotify) (Austin-based owner)
Erik Qualman’s Super U Podcast has tons of great tips on personal/digital branding and stories of people bringing out their superpowers. The March 16 podcast is about Online Classes and Online Learning during Coronavirus Quarantine. He also shares great tips on Instagram (short sound bites)
(And shameless plug, Erin Wike is interviewed on the 2/26 episode about The Modern Resume and Aligning your Passions with work).

The Prowess Project Certification
16-hour certification on teamwork, interpersonal skills, technology and Project Management principles. (Austin-based owner)

Doers Shakers Makers
Sierra Bailey’s Podcast has tons of great tips for tiny, talented business owners around content marketing, scaling, time management, etc. (Austin-based owner)
She also has a free Facebook group and virtual meet ups.

Google Analytics 101 for Small Business Owners (recorded webinar via YouTube)

Social Media Today has a story about LinkedIn Learning
In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco WebEx and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.

LinkedIn Learning has a ton of resources too about learning Google Analytics, Digital Marketing trends, Excel, etc.

Remote Resources by Facebook Education
If you’re looking for reliable content to share with your members on the prevention of coronavirus, or dealing with anxiety surrounding the virus, we’ve compiled some helpful information from leading health authorities.

Lynn Chang, Owner of Career Zen where East meets West in her approach to helping people with their Career Journeys.

  • 20 minutes of restorative yoga is equivalent to a 2-hr nap. Doing this everyday can improve your mindset and wellbeing. Waterfall pose. You can find other yoga and meditation videos from the Career Zen YouTube channel. Leandra Blei Photography filmed and edited the meditation ones!
  • I wrote The 10 Day Career Cleanse to help us during stressful, chaotic times at work. Through inner zen and harmony, we can more easily tap into creativity and innovation for our businesses. Jessica Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories (Austin-based owner) was my editor!
  • Need some extra money now? Remote Side Hustles, Work from home jobs through Rat Race Rebellion, Disaster Unemployment Assistance for small businesses. I’ll have more resources and special offerings to share as we go. Here’s my FB business page for reference.
  • Remember that your path to success is naturally paved with unexpected twists and turns. Stay focused on your vision and use your talents to better the world!

Sonya Strattman (Austin-based owner)
Success Strategist for Women in Business
Creator of Women in the Business Arena podcast and program

  • Sonya will have several podcast episodes on dealing with the current environment starting next week. Look up Women in the Business Arena on your favorite podcast app or visit: https://sonyastattmann.com/listen
  • She also has some very specific episodes on topics that will support you during these times.
    1. 3-part series on Navigating business with kids off of school, with illness, etc. Episodes 110-112 starting here.
    2. Overcoming fear EP105.
    3. The Inevitability of Discomfort and How to Move through it EP127.
    4. Deconstructing Stress EP134.
    5. Facing Discouragement & Rising Again EP132.
  • For those in a service business, she has a quick quiz that can help you determine where to focus your attention right now for the most results. Sonya also has accompanying training for each result.
  • Women’s Facebook group called Women in the Business Arena (same as the podcast). You are welcome to join and ask me her questions.

Ruoyun Xu Killian (Austin-based owner)
Founder of C3Nami, a Digital Marketing Agency.

  • Her company is currently working on potentially offering free 20 min advice calls to see how they can support people more on an individual level, but you can always email her, and she will do her best to answer questions.
  • Article about twitters advice on how to adjust your tone during these times.
  • Facebook hub for small businesses.
  • Official City of Austin website.
  • CDC website
  • We here at The American Genius feel the struggles of this time, we hear hundreds of stories each week and know it can be scary living in such uncertainty. We share these resources not only to help you through these hard times, but to show that others are working on, around, and through the problems along side you.

    This list is mostly centered around businesses but the more important element in all of this is you. Take care of yourself and business will return to normal, so wash your hands, stay away from others for the time being, and maybe you can actually catch up on that sleep you’ve been lacking for years.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Business News

Reopening the nation: Best done by sector or calendar?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Analysis suggests reopening economies in phases in each country. How will we find harmony between economic, epidemiological, and political leaders?

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After months indoors Americans are eager to reopen the economy. The United States has experimented with a series of stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and quarantines (the difference between these strategies being geographical and frankly, not always clear). However, the movement to stay home started with closed borders and reduced travel, and gradually became more restrictive as America fell in step behind other countries just in time to become the world’s hotspot for coronavirus infections.

After fraught disagreement between economists, scientists, and politicians, only a few things are certain to date: the economy has collapsed, 30 million people have lost jobs, more than 1.6 million people have been infected, and nearly 100,000 people have died as of this writing.*

Conversations have shifted from saving lives to saving both lives and livelihoods. Economists are making the case that a contracted economy magnifies health risks, and therefore potential mortality unrelated to or complementary to COVID-19 deaths. As such, it is time to consider various strategies for reopening the economy as a public health strategy not independent of hygienic and other measures.

Seven mostly friendly-looking suited-up white dudes from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland have analyzed a series of reopening strategies for the world to consider at this confusing, scary, and still uncertain juncture of how to proceed with defibrillating closed economies worldwide.

They concluded that a phased reopening by sector would balance the need to stimulate economic activity while minimizing epidemiological risk. They suggest that the order of sectors to reopen in each country should be chosen based on their inability to conduct core business from home, importance to the national economy, value added per worker, and business viability. You can read their full argument and the other strategies they evaluated here.

“This strategy has the virtue of being adaptive — as data is gathered following each sector-wide reopening, adjustments can be made concerning the timing of subsequent phases, and protective measures adopted in previously released sectors can be copied and improved as more is learned about the epidemic,” the team said.

The United States has already begun a regional reopening approach where Trump conceded that the states would determine their own reopening plans in phases. This strategy has already caused tension between states and municipalities (for example as between the large state of Texas and its highly populated capitol Austin).

Though the HBR argument is compelling, again, we find ourselves at a frustrating clash of experts in their fields. No matter how the economy is reopened, an increase in infections is likely if not inevitable as soon as more people return to a high-contact lifestyle – a point that scientists and epidemiologists have emphasized heavily. It also gives no mention of the role of testing and tracking the spread of the disease, and the path to population-level immunity whether by herd or vaccine.

Furthermore, this economic approach appears not to consider complementary supply chains and the interconnectedness of local, national, and global economies. Limiting travel was a key factor in slowing the spread and allowing control to become more localized, but much of the economy relies on the movement of people and things across communities.

Unfortunately, these decisions are ultimately made at the policy level. The United States government has proven itself incapable of a united approach to stemming the severity of this disease. Vaccines are in development, but it seems likely that when one is selected and approved for mass distribution, the decision will also be a political one. All of these considerations are ones Americans should bring to the ballot box in November. Or rather – to the mailbox with an absentee ballot, if we don’t manage to completely destroy our democracy between now and then.

*Such statistics, though widely cited, may be underreported or misrepresentative of the whole picture, as we learned about artificially deflated test rates in Texas last week.

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Business News

Survey indicates that small businesses are optimistic despite COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook survey captures tumult of spring 2020 on small and medium business, with a dash of optimism going into the summer.

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This story contains information that probably will not evoke shock and awe by now, but is nonetheless upsetting. Stop now and check to see if you need a news cycle break before ingesting more garbage depressive news about the economy – but if you can wade through it, I promise it ends on a high note!

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is running amuck in the political world like one of those signs at restaurants that say “unattended children will be given ice cream and a puppy,” Facebook continues to effectively build an online community of more than 2.6 billion people worldwide – including more than half of the population in the United States. Given their audience and ease of access to business owners, they decided to use their powers for good for once to survey small and medium businesses.

The survey returned responses from 38,078 business owners and managers, 39,104 employees, and 8,694 personal enterprises in the United States (total of 85,876 respondents). Respondents’ industries spanned manufacturing, retail, services, logistics, hospitality, construction, and agriculture. Thirty-three percent of businesses were urban, forty-two percent were urban, and twenty-five percent were rural.

Here’s where it gets depressing: thirty-one percent of businesses reported closing in the last three months, with 71 percent of those closing since March 1. For personal businesses, 52 percent are closed. Of those businesses still operating, 60 percent reported a reduced workload, and 60 percent also report struggling with finances. Employee wages, bills, and rent were the top areas of financial concern.

So how is this important segment of the economy surviving the crisis? Forty-one percent of business owners and managers said they could pull from personal savings, but 45 percent said zero-interest loans were the most helpful option to subsidize lost business.

Unsurprisingly, 79% of businesses say they have made some change to operations to accommodate their customers and keep things moving, like using digital tools and delivery services.

The survey found some interesting geographical differences, for example, that businesses in the Southeast have made slightly more physical adjustments to business like offering curbside pickup and home delivery. They also found differences in strategy by leadership gender: “Businesses led by women are more likely to be using digital tools, particularly with online advertising (43%) and digital payment tools (40%), compared to just 37% and 34%, respectively, of businesses led by men.” And the differences don’t stop at the strategic level. More women owner-managers (33%) reported that managing life in a pandemic at home was affecting their ability to focus on work than men (25%).

Amongst all the chaos, people are optimistic about the future. In fact, 57% of owner-managers are optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future of business. For employees, the results were surprisingly similar. Even though only 45% of SMB owner-managers and 32% of personal businesses reported that they would rehire the same workers when their businesses reopened, 59% of both the employed and unemployed were at least somewhat optimistic about their future employment.

And now for a quote from President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire Primary speech amidst our last recession, without a smidge of tacky irony or liberal preaching: “We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes we can.’”

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Business News

Who will get to work from home once COVID-19 stay-home orders are over?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many large tech firms review and update their work from home policies. This could be presented as THE biggest work perk of 2021.

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The large tech firms that we all know and use frequently are making big announcements on their timing and policies for their employees to work from home as updates on COVID-19 come in.

Square and Twitter have said many employees will work from home indefinitely – even after states begin to open back up. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have all extended dates on returning to offices. You can read more details here on The Verge.

Let’s break down some pros and cons – especially if this means that working from home will become the hottest recruiting tool in the future. Like ping pong tables and Friday at 4pm beer carts once were.

Some high-level things that contribute to why people love (or tolerate) their W2 jobs:

  • They like the PEOPLE they work with
  • They have a feeling of purpose, and genuinely enjoy the work
  • There are miscellaneous perks (gym membership reimbursement, free cafeterias, personal development workshops, tuition reimbursement, travel opportunities)
  • Their employer helps to pay for healthcare benefits, and makes 401K contributions
  • Their team rotates, and they get to work from home once in a while*

*This is nice to allow some flexibility. Employees can choose to treat their morning how they would like (maybe wake up a little later, or enjoy their coffee at a coffee shop). It allows them to not rush out the door to sit in traffic, or on the bus or train. They can take the day off of wearing real pants, and work in pajamas. Heck, they can even save time on Saturday or Sunday by doing the laundry on their work from home (WFH) day. It could also be a great opportunity to fit in doctor appointments, or have real quality focus time – missing less of the work day.

This is NOT an implication that people work less that day, in fact working from home, you usually work more because there are not things that force you to break up the day like the commute, meetings, or lunch with your colleagues.

Some high-level things that might contribute to the desire to be an entrepreneur:

  • Your work is a main piece of your identity – usually being a product or service that YOU created, and it leverages a perfect marriage of your talents, skills, and passions
  • You likely get to be your own boss, and make your own creative decisions
  • You constantly have the opportunity to learn, and this can be great for those who love the constant change and challenges
  • It’s just never really worked out for you to work for someone else, or for a corporation
  • Something drives you to build something of your own
  • Working from home* in all its glory

*A common misconception of the entrepreneurship or freelance lifestyle is that you work from home or a coffee shop, and it’s oh so very sexy and freeing, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. While arguably, yes, you do have more control over your schedule, and there are perks to your own business; likely you are working 24/7, and wearing every single hat from the Producer to Customer Services to Finance to the Accounting department. This requires you to be really open to learning or knowing what you don’t know, and possibly hiring experts.

So, moving forward, will the “you can work remotely! From wherever you’d like” become the hottest recruiting trend of 2021? Here’s why we predict that may not be the best way to move forward.

  1. People are social creatures. Working from home sporadically vs 100% of the time are two completely different things. You could possibly lose the momentum with your teams if they no longer know and trust one another. Plus, no doubt there will be turn-over, and when there are numerous parts and teams, it can be helpful for them to have in person experiences together.
  2. Does this make sense for the commercial real estate industry, and the leases that have been signed? It’s unlikely that many large corporations just perfectly timed their leases that align with COVID-19. Many will likely want to bring people back just for that fact.
  3. All of this takes an enormous amount of money, additional tech support, and infrastructure, (not to mention mailing costs for all office equipment, etc.) and it’s not possible that only the most profitable firms will prevail and be able to do this.
  4. How would large cities (read: high cost of living) like the Bay Area be able to retain talent, and/or why would you pay to live there if you can live anywhere. This could drastically shift urban planning and development.

We just don’t see it moving all the way to the extreme of all knowledge workers working from home indefinitely. If you want to see how people are feeling about working from home, you have to check out this Buzzfeed article, “Zoom Fatigue is Real, And You Probably Have It If You Relate to These 16 Tweets.”

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