How to Manage Distractions for Your SBA EIDL APPROVAL

Saturday afternoon, Trevor purchased a half gallon of 2% milk for his morning coffee. He then discovered the milk was bad. When he checked the date, he saw the container was already 8 days past its “sell-by” date when he purchased it, thus making today 10 days past due.

He returned to the market, grabbed another 2% half gallon only to discover that the date was also past due. Finally, he found one that’s good for another 8 days.

When Trevor went to the counter to tell the owner, he said, “I knew it. I should always stock the milk myself.  No matter how many times I tell them, they just don’t pay attention.

He was referring to the two young men, probably teenagers, who work part-time for him. We remembered they were there the Saturday when Trevor went to the counter to pay for the first, bad, half gallon of milk. They sat off to the side and neither one had the sense to get up, come to the counter and ring Trevor out. The owner was busy at the ice cream window scooping out some of his excellent local creamery ice cream.  Trevor had to wait to pay for him to finish with his ice cream customer.

When he told Trevor about the lads not ‘paying attention’ to their work, we were reminded of the teenager we hired to split firewood on our property. We told the owner, “When they’re working here, you have to take their phones away.” Trevor went on to describe his observations of the wood-splitter at our house: “His Mom drove him up to our driveway with the wood splitter on a trailer attached to her car.  Then, later, I saw him split two pieces of wood, then take his phone out of his pocket, spend five minutes messaging, then split two pieces of wood, then the phone would come out of the pocket, and so on.

Before you think we’re just old curmudgeons who disregard a teenagers’ work ethic, let’s describe some of the same behaviors we’ve discovered in our clients.

Thanks to COVID-19, our little financing practice morphed into assisting small business owners with the Federal Government’s disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) known as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Working on an SBA loan application is, in the best of times, a daunting and complicated process. 

The paperwork is complicated and lengthy, and the bureaucracy is fraught with all kinds of systemic incompetence.  All of these features have been exponentially made worse by the overwhelming need for this program due to the pandemic.

Our clients run the gamut from “gig-worker” self-employed sole proprietors to owners of businesses that generate multi-millions in annual revenue; age ranges from 20-somethings to folks my age (60) and older.

Trevor was a mortgage loan officer for 30 years. He learned early on that the key to getting any loan application approved was paying attention to details, especially those that may appear to be inconsequential. He worked mostly on government mortgage loans in his career; which presented a solid preparation for working on these SBA government loans now. And the most important lesson, about those otherwise minor details, comes to bear every single day.

Most of our clients have applied for the SBA loan and have been declined. So our job is to review their documents and their applications and “fix” whatever was wrong that caused the declination in the first place. You may think these folks were all declined because they simply didn’t qualify; but that’s not how this program works, almost every applicant is eligible and qualified due to the fact the loan program is only about compensating the business for revenue lost due to the disaster—COVID-19.

We’ve discovered a terrifying aspect of our modern life: it seems everyone, of all ages, every generation, is distracted. Their distractions are causing real difficulty, personally and professionally. In almost every client file we work on, we see mistakes that range from their SBA application process to the mistakes made with their fundamental business documents or information.

Those mistakes, many of them fairly simple and functional, are causing these businesses to be delayed in getting an approved for vital this funding that, quite literally, will keep their business alive during the pandemic and beyond. When we discuss these errors with the clients, the responses too often point to that one disturbing word, again and again: distractions.

“I was in a hurry when I did the original application,” as an explanation why there are wild inaccuracies in their application when compared to their financial or other business documents.

Or, from the business owner who’s original business partner, absent from the business for ten years or more, recently walked into the bank and withdrew nearly $100,000 of the business’ money for himself because his name still appears on the business name and the bank account, even though our client doesn’t consider the man to be a partner at all.  Our client never took the time to visit his attorney and change the paperwork, or remove the partner’s name from the bank account. Why? Distracted with his other job, another business, his family, and, you name it.

That same local market owner had his problems with the SBA process too, notably, his inability to locate an important email from the SBA about his loan that we had submitted for him. We called him every few days to ask if he had received an email from SBA with his loan approval (all our other clients were receiving emails and I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t). “No, nothing yet,” he’d say, to which we responded, “Did you check your SPAM folder?”

But he’s busy running a little country marketplace (with, apparently, useless employees who can’t even stack milk cartons with correct expiration dates), so it wasn’t until we got him on the phone late one afternoon when we knew the store would be quiet and we forced him to stop what he was doing and scroll through every single email, including SPAM.  And, there it was!  The SBA email from two months before, now long expired, with his loan approval.

Like the milk episode, this caused more work for us. His distractions of simply running his business kept him both from hiring competent employees (who were distracted in their own ways), training those employees, and taking the time necessary to attend to a vital funding that would dramatically have eased his economic suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Trevor realized that he noticed this trend in the late years of his mortgage career, too. Folks who were requesting that Trevor’s bank lend them hundreds of thousands of dollars, were so distracted in their daily lives (they always had the excuse of being busy…and thus distracted.), they couldn’t find the time (or bandwidth) to pay attention enough to basic documents or questions needing to be answered to get their loans approved. This to buy their dream house.

Like the young men at the local market who are too distracted to pay attention to “sell-by” dates on the milk cartons, so many of us are distracted to the point of distress. You’re literally ruining your lives, either personally or professionally, or both, with your failure to recognize and control your distractions. These distractions are not solely the fault of our smartphones. Or even social media.  There are all kinds of static-inducing disruptions to our days.

Trevor, as a student of economics and history, he puts these distractions down to a single phenomenon, one that is (finally) getting more attention in the media. That phenomenon is directly related to money.  More specifically, earning money and the cost of living. We’ve watched this distressing trend grow from the early 1990’s, through the boom times and recession times, and especially after the global recession that resulted in 2010 from the mortgage meltdown.

People have been struggling to “catch up” with costs, and earn a decent basic living for decades; but that struggle received a new infusion of chaotic confusion after the global recession. The rich definitely got richer, none of the bankers or financing titans went to jail or paid any kind of price for causing this worldwide calamity, but the average working person today has paid, and continues to pay, the price for that more than decade old recession.

COVID-19 only exposed the brutal reality of this financial duress in the most blunt terms possible.

But, those of us who have struggled and continue to struggle, we fail to recognize this calamity. Instead, like bugs scattering when you lift a stone up, we simply go about our days, go about our business, go about “living” in a way that seems to us to be satisfactory.

Wake up.  Your distractions are killing you. You need to save your own life and you need to slow yourself down and you need to focus.

Take your pick of the things that are killing you, or will kill you, or your children: Climate change. COVID-19. Politics. Driving fast combined with distracted driving. And on and on.

We have three suggestions, or “rules” on actions you can take to reduce, and hopefully, eliminate, distractions from your life.

Rules to not be distracted:

  1. Take Care
  2. One At A Time
  3. There’s Plenty of Time

Take Care

We use this rule with our financing practice. Think of the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, cut once.” That’s essentially what “Take Care” means. Whatever activity you’re undertaking, whether you’re stocking the milk cartons, preparing financial documents for your business or to buy a home, making decisions that could affect your or your children’s well-being, take the appropriate care with that process. Look at the solutions, the consequences, the pro’s and the con’s; look at the mechanism, about what it will take to accomplish whatever it is you’re doing or deciding on. Then, put all that good brain-power you just expended to work.

One At A Time

We refuse to waste time arguing, or reading about, whether or not multi-tasking is a good or bad thing. We prefer to think from the positive perspective: doing ONE thing, allocating time and energy to that one thing, and accomplishing that ONE thing, is a worthy enterprise. It works. Time and time and time again: when you’re focused on ONE thing, from spending time speaking to an elderly parent, or preparing your documents for your tax returns, or whatever task or mission you need to accomplish, large or small, when you do only the ONE thing at one time, not multiple things at the same time, your results are so much more gratifying and accurate.

This also saves time from having to go back and redo something again.

There’s Plenty of Time

We’re convinced that somehow we all have come to believe that time is running away before our very eyes and that if we don’t hurry up, we’ll miss out on something.

There’s this trend, apparently, among the younger folk, to take time for getting the most out of their young lives now. That’s why they don’t want to be trapped in jobs that are mind-sucking-soulless-energy-sapping endeavors to earn money and nothing more. A good meal with friends; rock-climbing; doing nothing for its own sake. These activities sound more like retirement, but in reverse because the people doing them are all young. It’s as if they believe they’ll run out of time.

We posit this concept: when you’re young is actually the BEST time to invest in yourself for your future, whether that’s education or earning, or any combination of the two.  Further, spend your time wisely. The time’s not running out; but YOUR time to create something good for yourself in your life is running out, because economics will catch up to you with bills you’ll have to pay, families you’ll have to clothe, house and feed, and energy that wanes as your years progress.

Embrace your life by all means; live for your moment. But do it in a way that is well-considered. Take into account that, short as all our lives are relative to the Universe at large, there’s actually plenty of time.

Distracted while writing this: We confess that, as we wrote this, we were distracted a few times. Maybe that’s part of the writing process, taking time to think, although some of the best writers in the world say you should lock yourself in a room alone with no distractions and do nothing but write. Hemingway started every one of his days that way: with no distractions and focused on his writing and we all know how that turned out for him.

We don’t believe we allow ourselves to be distracted in the ways that we see so many other people churning through their lives.  And, we can honestly say this: we have accomplished some fairly incredible things in our lives by following these three aforementioned rules. Focusing and refusing to be distracted.

We hope our little discourse didn’t distract you too much.

Break It Down

Business Financing Documents Checklist

Stop worrying about what's required when pursuing a business loan for your small business. This list will indicate what a lender, bank, SBA, etc. will want to know about you and your small business if you're looking for a business loan. These are prudent documents that help tell your small business story. Without them, it's difficult for lenders to assess you as a risk when it comes to lending your small business money. This is NOT SPECIFIC to the SBA EIDL loan.

4 Reasons Goal-Setting Doesn’t Suck

Let’s face it; it’s a goal to set a goal. 

The new year is almost here, and I don’t know about you, but this happens every last quarter and last month of the year for me and for us here at Aurora Consulting.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It can be daunting to set a goal, track a goal, and stick to a plan to achieve the goal. Why? Because it’s work.

We also know, and this is that weird icky feeling that we sometimes ignore, having a goal and not meeting the goal could generate feelings of failure and/or rejection. 

This could set us back and cause resistance to maintain momentum.

If you think about it…what’s the resistance around setting a goal? Goals present opportunities, and creating opportunities could mean income to your business. 

That is….IF building your business is a GOAL!? We did this podcast, Ask 6 Questions as a Business Owner | The Difference Between Business Owner & Entrepreneur.

Goals are INSPIRING.

Many different activities make up your role in your business. There are things that you love to do and there are things that are for the greater good of the business that may not be your favorite part of your day/week/month/year.

Create a contest for yourself and/or team members and reward yourself when you’ve finished a task. Something, anything that will motivate you to want to work on those tasks/activities that will help accomplish the goal.

When we’re inspired, we’re more focused on accomplishing the task at hand. And this will help us work smarter to achieve a goal.

Let’s embrace what we do and not be afraid of it.

Goals build CONFIDENCE.

Now that you’re motivated and working on tasks that inspire you, this will build confidence. Confidence propels us to be the best that we can be…and maybe even have a little fun while doing it.

When we’re confident, we seek more challenges. This helps us to be more curious, continue learning, and grow.

Goals are CHALLENGING.

This is when it gets fun. We’re now inspired and that builds confidence.

How about building in something that makes us uncomfortable? We call this getting out of our comfort zone. Competition builds character.

Think of a triathlete. They track their activity and their time to know how they can train to be stronger and faster. When their body becomes adjusted to a certain weight or speed, they begin trying things that challenge their current abilities.

This helps us to grow. See a theme here?

Goals keep us ACCOUNTABLE.

The movie A FEW GOOD MEN includes one of the most memorable movie lines in movie history. When pressed for the truth, Jack Nicholson’s character Colonel Jessup bellows: “You can’t handle the truth!”

I say, you can handle the truth. Tracking your activity will cause reason to celebrate when you achieve a goal or progress toward achieving the goal. 

And if there’s evidence that this goal may not see the light of day, tracking will help you to recognize the signs so you can pivot and/or redirect our focus so you’re working on your strengths vs. giving up altogether.

Have you considered an accountability partner? Some people, and I am one of them, need an external force or energy to stay on track. Whether it’s a weekly call or you’re checking in on a private Facebook page, knowing that you have to divulge your activity, or divulge the lack of activity, it may motivate you to have something awesome to report.

Now, go and set some goals; you can handle it! 

Download our Beacon Oversights and Preparedness Guide. It includes 3 pages of checklists about the many things that must be managed when you own a business. It will help you to create goals for yourself. 

 

The ROI of Doing Nothing

Often, when a business-owner invests in marketing, they want to know when they will see a return on investment. It should be a question and a concern; it would be cavalier to dismiss otherwise.

However, when a business-owner finally realizes that marketing is key to new business development, some think that results rapidly occur. It doesn’t work that way.

Besides considering the cost of marketing, the time before profit is realized remains uncertain. In my experience of running a business and investing in marketing, a person skilled in sales considers budget, cost and equally as important, the confidence that the potential solution could be a cure to stagnation.

It’s hard to quantify the loss of income when nothing is being done to attract new business. It’s not unusual that, sometimes, we spend a lot of time rationalizing not investing a few dollar to make more dollars.

Did you ever go to a networking event, meet people, get business cards and never follow up? It happens! We spend money to attend the event, gas for the car and lose quality time with family and/or personal endeavors. The ROI of dong nothing equals nothing.

As a licensed insurance person, it would be tough to write insurance if I thought “that person doesn’t need insurance” especially when they have insurance because I know they own a car, a home, and a business. 

Do you like tea? If you do, you know that when you make tea, you don’t drink it immediately after pouring the hot water into the tea cup. You have to wait for the tea to steep so it maximizes the ingredients and flavor of the tea; otherwise it’s just hot water.

Marketing is like tea. it takes time. Besides needing money to invest in marketing, we need patience to develop a reputation. You know what costs money? A reduction in new business while overhead continues to increase.

Don’t be cheap, steep! Then, enjoy one sip at a time. 

Procrastination: Friend or Foe

It took me almost 6 months to write this. Then, a month to edit…Don’t you love irony?

However, I think procrastination gets a bad rap considering the benefits it can have. Did she say “benefits”?

Yes, I did. Wait, how is procrastination a benefit?

Let’s not wait a moment longer. Let’s begin with definitions. First, there are a few definitions that could lead us to believe the negative aspects of procrastination.

Merriam-Webster has a definition that definitely made me feel guilty:

to put off intentionally and habitually; to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

But then, Oxford and Cambridge made me feel a little better. According to their definitions, a delay doesn’t mean “game over”.

the action of delaying or postponing something, and
– to delay doing something

Let’s start with an obvious example of the bold exercise of procrastinating, one with which I’m all too familiar.

As a business-owner, a website is something most of us consider in order to drive traffic and more business our way. But the size of the project can be overwhelming, and so, we delay. You know, a delay in a bad way that validates that procrastination has a negative connotation.

What could be the cost of delaying this website project? The cost of procrastination is the lost opportunity of not being found on the internet. I may be crazy, but I also think that the worst kind of statistic is the unquantifiable amount of how much business is lost by not being searchable and discoverable on the internet.

When you consider the potential cost of a lost opportunity, you return to the idea of getting it done. But it’s still an overwhelming idea and a potentially huge project. But there is a way to deal with the overwhelming part, AKA the thing that leads us to work against our own best interest.

You don’t habitually put off this project according to the first definition listed above. Instead, choose the more positive second definition. Delaying the project doesn’t mean it’ll never get done. And, in the delay of the overall goal of finishing the project, search for the solution you need to get the project done.

What’s one reason that makes this project overwhelming? The idea that you have to do it alone! All those tasks, all that responsibility, it’s a whirlwind of anxiety that builds up a wall of resistance, as described in the first definition.

You don’t have to do it alone. You have control over the delay, you have the power over postponement.

What are the some of the solutions we have control over? We could hire a website expert to assist with some of the mechanical tasks. A professional has the skills necessary to take your vision and to organize and prioritize the project. All of a sudden, that thing you’ve been avoiding is moving along.

With the help of an expert, you can then execute on key tasks such as robust call-to-action tactics, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, a comprehensive products/services summary, credible blog posts, as an example.

This task list demonstrates expertise and credibility that will attract your target market. Feels like control, feels like something is getting it done.

What happens if you can’t afford to hire someone? It’s a catch 22, isn’t it? We have to build our business to make money to reinvest back into our business, but we have to implement marketing strategies to build our business to make the money to reinvest.

We could get too busy, too busy making excuses. And those excuses bring us back to the negative, inappropriate definition of procrastination. Oh no, we were doing so well!

Excuses don’t affect anyone but ourselves, but let’s be careful about complaining. No one likes a complainer when it’s something within our control of accomplishment.

Now, what have you been waiting for. Let’s get excited how procrastination can work in your favor. It’s not a coincidence that it’s easier and shorter to explain.

One of my mantras has always been “Procrastination is a time management strategy.” What do I mean?

Let’s imagine we have to prepare for a very important meeting or project, it’s a week away. We know what we have to do; we know the date and time of the meeting. Time is of the essence. If you were to leave it until the last day, then yes, we’re guilty of procrastination. Or are we?

Procrastination doesn’t take into account that one must plan, prepare and prioritize to complete a task. The key word is PRIORITIZE. Just because you’re putting off something, doesn’t mean you’re procrastinating.

Maybe you’re pondering…?

One thing I’ve found about my approach is that when I attack a task, sometimes I need a break to let the creative juices flow, to present another perspective. This gives time to create and edit along the way. It’s called PROGRESS. Have you ever gotten the advice to “sleep on it” when you’re unsure about how to deal with an issue?

This is no different, except we can call that Positive Procrastination!

Rushing to finish is stressful, not to mention overwhelming. And, we already know where that can lead. But, if you start in phases, it gives you time to review and edit and triple check your work. Starting doesn’t always mean finishing.

Starting means planning on how to have the best finished product.

Procrastinate away as long as you know how to manage your time and the deadline.