How Small Businesses Can Navigate Financial Uncertainty

Supply chain issues, inflation, and more are posing challenges for today’s entrepreneurs. To help, experts share their insights on navigating financial uncertainty.


Air Date: April 7, 2022

Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Alexis McSween, Founder and CEO, Bottom Line Construction & Development, LLC, Tom Kelly, Director of Product Marketing, Oracle NetSuite, Tristan Walker, Founder and CEO, Walker & Company Brands

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses continue to feel the impact of an uncertain economy. From supply chain issues to inflation, entrepreneurs today must navigate myriad challenges to start, run, and grow their businesses.

To help support small business owners facing these challenges, a group of seasoned experts and entrepreneurs share their insights on how to survive — and even thrive — amid financial uncertainty.

Be Transparent with Stakeholders — and Yourself — About Pricing

Alexis McSween is no stranger to financial uncertainty, having launched Bottom Line Construction & Development during the 2008 recession. With supply chain issues and inflation, McSween noted the cost of business is increasing, making transparency with stakeholders more important than ever.

“When we provide a proposal, we only insert the dates that have been guaranteed to us … [and] those dates sometimes don’t go past 30 days,” McSween shared. “Once we provide the proposal, we set it in our calendar to reach out to that vendor a week prior to just see where we are.”

In addition to being transparent with stakeholders, business leaders should also be honest with themselves about whether it makes financial sense to take on a project — even if it sounds like a great opportunity on paper.

“Sometimes certain opportunities come to you [...] but sometimes the numbers just don’t work out,” said McSween. “Speak to your accountant [...and] really look at your team when you’re making those decisions.”

Track Your Business’ Growth from a Holistic Perspective

Entrepreneurs can better prepare for economic uncertainty if they understand their current and projected financials. Tom Kelly, director of product marketing for Oracle NetSuite, encourages small business owners to zero in on metrics and factors that will impact their business and industry as a whole.

“I know everybody has got inflation on their mindset, but as we’ve all seen, things can change pretty dramatically in a moment,” he elaborated. “The trick is [...] to take advantage of those changes [...] in ways that are fact-based and intuitive to what you’re doing in your particular industry or business.”

To provide concrete information on how a business is performing, Kelly also recommends leaders track their income on both a cash and accrual basis.

“A cash basis … means when [you] make a sale, [you] collect the cash,” said Kelly. “[With] an accrual basis … you make a sale, you have a receivable that you set up, so you recognize the accrual business.”

Finally, having a strong financial system in place can empower entrepreneurs to make important decisions for the future of the company.

Kelly stressed, “You really need to have a perspective as to how you’re performing, why the performance is what it is [...] and what you’re going to do about it.”

Simplify Your Processes and Lean Into Challenges

Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker and Company, noted that startups have been especially impacted by the pandemic: supply chains tend to prioritize larger companies, and many small business owners face both cash constraints and customer demand. In this situation, Walker recommends new entrepreneurs take a “back to basics experience.”

“When [considering] this idea of … making room for the worst happening, the best way to do it is [simplifying] your infrastructure,” Walker said. “That simplification allows you to conserve cash.”

“As an entrepreneur … you’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes mistakes will happen to you, as opposed to you being the cause of it,” he continued. “Simplification is always the easiest way to get around it.”

However, even the most prepared and streamlined businesses can struggle. Walker recalled advice he heard from actor, director, and entrepreneur Tyler Perry.

“He said he recognized his potential as an entrepreneur when he understood that the trials you go through and the blessings you receive are the exact same things,” said Walker. “If you lean into the trials as blessings, it’s only going to compound a positive impact on your experience.”