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'Newsday Live' panelists on getting businesses ready for normalcy

Local business experts offer tips about how businesses can

Local experts offer tips about how businesses can prepare for warmer weather and hopefully more sales, and survive until vaccines are widely in use. Sign up for COVID-19 text alerts at newsday.com/text.

With spring approaching, the number of vaccinated New Yorkers growing, and some hope for normalcy on the horizon, many businesses are wondering how they can hold and make the most of a rebounding economy.

Businesses should be using social media to reach customers, communicating their commitment to safety, proactively looking into loan programs and creatively using their business space to accommodate foot traffic, said panelists in the fields of marketing and entrepreneurship during a Tuesday "Newsday Live" webinar moderated by the news organization's economics writer James T. Madore.

Stacey Sikes, executive dean of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Hofstra University’s ideaHUb, said that businesses are going to have to find ways to differentiate themselves.

"Think about experiences you can create for your customers around spring holidays and celebrations," Sikes advised viewers. "Social media is a must to reach customers and feature your client testimonials."

Social media can be a powerful tool for companies, but business owners should take some time to figure out which platforms best connect them to their customer base, said Stacey Finkelstein, associate professor and area head of marketing at Stony Brook University’s College of Business.

Additionally, making it clear online to potential customers that your business is taking the proper safety precautions can be a good way to make shoppers feel more comfortable.

"As much as possible, think about not only the challenges but the opportunities you have," Finkelstein said. "As much as we tend to think negatively, try and get those creative juices flowing. No idea is too out there, too silly. Don’t be afraid to try something."

While warmer weather and continued vaccine efforts may increase foot traffic, it’s important to be pragmatic about cash flow and to look at sources of financial assistance that haven’t been tapped yet, said Pierre Lespinasse, business adviser with the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College.

"There is more than the PPP," Lespinasse said. "There is a whole slew of them out there. It behooves you to take a look."

As struggling businesses work through what it hoped to be the last leg of COVID-era restrictions and difficulty, Lespinasse said it’s a good idea to come up with a "90-day forecast" to act as a guiding strategy to make it to the other side of pandemic induced recession.

"You need a 90-day forecast with your best guesses so you can manage by it," he said.

For information on aid for to small businesses, email the Small Business Development Centers at Farmingdale State College or Stony Brook University at sbdc@farmingdale.edu and frontdesksbdc@stonybrook.edu.

To speak with someone at the Entrepreneurship Assistance Center at Hofstra University or Suffolk County Community College, call 516-463-4069 or 631-851-6214, respectively.

An earlier version of this story gave the wrong name for the Entrepreneurship Assistance Centers at Hofstra University and Suffolk County Community College.

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