Managing director of Venture Investors tells businesses to “be creative” during COVID-19

The managing director of Venture Investors told businesses to “be creative” throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

John Neis addressed startup and small business leaders during a Wisconsin Tech Council webinar called “Crossing the coronavirus chasm: Tips from investors for the COVID-19 era.”

“Be creative — change creates opportunity. There certainly are some immediate needs that are created during this crisis,” he said. 

He noted Venture Investors has four portfolio companies that are directly trying to respond to COVID-19 with solutions from diagnostics to training for medical professionals during surges. 

Neis speculates there will be “significant changes” to business models because of COVID-19. He recommends business owners reevaluate how they reach customers, communicate, service or install. 

“This is going to be a tremendous learning experience for society,” he said. “I think we can all feel confident that there is going to be a dialogue about creating readiness for future pandemics, and I think that will create some business opportunities for many.”

Neis reflected back to 9/11 and the 2008 recession when he said it seemed those at risk were a narrow group. 

“This is the circumstance where everybody feels at risk and everybody will be affected in some way or another,” he said. “It remains to be seen how permanent some of the changes are to the workforce — I personally believe that this is going to be a sustained issue.”

But Neis looks to entrepreneurs to step up and offer solutions. 

“When this is all said and done, entrepreneurs are going to be a key part of that story,” he said. “This is a time of opportunity.” 

Also in WTC’s webinar, Old National Bank’s vice president of private banking warned businesses about coronavirus scams.

Iliana Tcherneva said criminals are leveraging the coronavirus pandemic to commit fraud. 

“Do not open attachments from unexpected sources, be overly suspicious with any unsolicited information and do not fund missions that you are not sure are real,” she said.

She also noted that sources are claiming that financial institutions are ready for clients to get the SBA loan applications underway. 

“While we continue to receive information about PPP (Paid Protection Program) applications, it’s not yet final,” she said. “We’re hopeful that details will be finalized in a matter of days.”

While businesses wait to apply, Tcherneva recommended gathering 2019 tax returns, year end balance sheets and profit and loss statements. She also said to have the last four quarters of payroll forms, verification of number of employees and 4-10-99 miscellaneous for self-employed individuals at the ready. 

“If you’re an LLC, you need to consult with somebody about your own pay because you’re probably not on your payroll system,” added Tim Keane, director of Golden Angels Investors. “That means that you’re going to need a tax return to prove your compensation. If you haven’t prepared your 2019 taxes, that may delay the paperwork depending on how the bank thinks about this.

Keane said businesses should “get in line” to apply.

“Applications for companies open on Friday April 3rd and banks are going to prioritize their work loads,” he said. “They’re also not set up for the volumes that we’re talking about, so I would urge you to get in line.”

By Stephanie Hoff