For many people, the road to wealth has a direct path through the world of small business, but lately that road has been rough. The economic downturn crippled many fledgling companies and even forced some to close. Most recently, Hurricane Sandy has made difficult times worse.
Like many in the region, Westchester’s small business community is trying to remain afloat, if not thrive. Christopher Jordan, president and CEO of Lexco Wealth Management Inc., said many of his small business clients have “suffered deeply.” Those that closed or still cannot do business are barely staying afloat because those challenges “affect their profitability, especially if they don’t have much of a cushion,” Jordan said.
According to the Westchester County Office of Economic Development, the county is home to 52,000 small businesses and self-employed business people. They are major job creators in the area and generate tax dollars that help maintain the communities they serve. But some budgets are tight. The IDC reported the average revenue for a small business has hovered around $3 million within the last decade with most in that group bringing in closer to $1 million.
Local banks have, for the time being, remained sensitive to the needs and challenges facing the small business community. Many of them, including Greater Hudson Bank and Apple Bank, have extended special business loan programs to those in need of funds for cleanup and recovery. The Westchester Business Council has worked diligently to update and reach out to its small business members, updating its website on such programs as well as offering information relative to regaining financial footing through the Small Business Association (SBA) and Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO of The Business Council of Westchester, said recovery “is going to take months for our businesses that were hit really hard by Sandy.” He added that the storm was “a major step back,” but many in the business community have proven to be resilient keeping their doors open and doing what they can in helping their neighborhood get through the struggles caused by Sandy.
Many of those small businesses that have suffered are retail shops and restaurants. Food products had to be thrown out, the arrival of inventory shipments were thwarted due to the storm, and other inventory was damaged by the intrusion of the harsh weather conditions. Business structures were also damaged and owners have been waiting on insurance and seeking additional loans to become fully operational.
The recovery process may be ongoing, but there are signs of hope. Ravitz said the holiday season can propel small businesses forward, and many have benefited from the push for “Support Small Business Day.” It’s vital to invest in the community, according to Ravitz, because small businesses in the region “employ local people and bring revenue into the community, which helps long term.” He added that most understand we’re all in this together and the cry to support local retail, restaurants, and services is a call most have answered because they understand how critical neighborhood investment is. That gives Ravitz reason to be optimistic.
Jordan also believes in the resiliency of his small business clients and he said his company continues to strive to help them not only stay afloat, but tap into their potential to grow. “We try to educate our small business clients so that they are making the best decision at the time. What you do now versus two years from now is different.”
Most appreciate the fact that being a small business owner is no small feat, Jordan said, and the issues of the day that might make the road to success more challenging have made those owners more diligent in their business practices, and even more determined to overcome hardship.
Jordan added that these latest obstacles including Hurricane Sandy and even the impending arrival of the “fiscal cliff” deadline are being met by a small business population that is better prepared. “I think the reality check of the crash of 2008 and the recession has forced people to be more vigilant, and in the end that’s going to help them.”