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The 4R Project

Smith is Fargo Center Director of the ND Small Business Development Centers (ND SBDC) and recently achieved the designation of Certified Value Growth Advisor (CVGA). The ND SBDC helps North Dakota entrepreneurs and small business owners to start, manage and grow their companies by providing free, professional business advising services, technical assistance and training in a range of areas. The program assists more than 1,000 clients each year through nine service Centers located across North Dakota. The Fargo Center is located in the NDSU Research and Technology Park Incubator. For more information, please visit ndsbdc.org


While the COVID pandemic has left no industry completely unaffected, it has become clear that some sectors have felt the impact much more acutely than others. Businesses that were forced to shut their doors such as restaurants, hotels and brick and mortar retail stores will take longer to recover as consumer confidence gradually returns. On the other hand, logistics/delivery services, e-commerce, home fitness, collaboration tools, bicycle sales, drone and IT services have actually seen a surge in growth.  

Because of this disparity, small businesses are in different phases of recovery and have different needs depending on where they are on the road to recovery. Some have been focused on recovery and reopening while others have been working on re-inventing and pivoting their business to create long-term sustainability. 

To help ND small businesses “get back to business,” the ND SBDC has launched the 4R Project – Recover, Re-open, Re-invent, (be) Resilient. This state-wide, collaborative effort is designed to provide a one-stop shop for small business owners to find a wide range of disaster assistance and business advising, training, education resources. Any small business in the state of North Dakota is eligible to take advantage of these no-cost services offered by the program’s team of professional, certified business advisors. SBDC services have been clustered around the needs of small business owners in these four major areas: 

1.Recovery

  • Debt relief/restructuring of existing debt
  • Delay/defer payments
  • Access to capital (SBA PPP, EIDL, Bank of ND)
  • Cash management/conservation/expense reduction
  • Communications, staying connected
  • Employee health and well-being
  • Cyber risk mitigation
  • Monetize idle and excess assets
  • Manage customer contracts
  • Manage supply chain.

2. Re-open

  • Employee & client health/safety
  • Marketing & communications       
  • Pricing and revised cash flow
  • Cash management
  • Operational efficiency, staffing levels, flex hours, teleworking options 
  • Inventory and supply chain challenges
  • Starting a new business

3. Re-invent

  • Re-assess your business model/pivot
  • Fulfill unmet needs 
  • New value, product or service with existing assets
  • New ways to deliver value to existing customers (distribution channels)
  • New customers/emerging markets
  • Rethink supply chain
  • New pricing model
  • Repurpose/reallocate assets, resources and capital

4. Resiliency

  • Disaster planning
  • Financial analysis/planning
  • Build cash reserves
  • Continuity of operations
  • Succession/exit planning

Regardless of where your business is on the spectrum, the importance of sound financial and cash management cannot be overstated. While profits may be the measure of success, cash will determine the survival of the business. (see article in FargoINC! May issue) One of the most important tools is a rolling 13-week cash flow forecast. By knowing your burn rate and identifying and managing “valleys” of cash shortfall, you can extend your “runway” and buy more time. You can download a free cash flow projection template here.

There’s still much uncertainty about the future. Will we experience a fall spike in COVID-19 cases or ongoing peaks and valleys? How long will it take for the U.S. and State of ND economy to recover? And what will the long-term impacts look like on small businesses in our region? Many companies took advantage of SBA PPP and EIDL loans, but what happens when that money runs out? It’s still too early to answer these questions. But this much is clear: Tectonic shifts are happening, which bring significant challenges and opportunities for ND businesses. 

Now is not a time to try to play “lone ranger.” Seek assistance from trusted advisors such as your accountant, banker, attorney and other small business owners. If you would like no-cost, confidential assistance, please contact the ND SBDC or another local SBA resource partner such as SCORE, ND Women’s Business Center, or Veteran’s Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas (VBOC).

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Written by Brady Drake

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