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BRIAN FORMISANO: Looking ahead for Southern Nevada Black and African American business owners this Martin Luther King day

Last year presented some of the greatest challenges Southern Nevada small business owners have faced. Unfortunately, there has been a disproportionate effect on diverse-owned businesses, including those owned by Black and African American entrepreneurs.

As Black and African American business owners continue to look ahead this Martin Luther King Day, there are some key considerations that can be made to plan for a future where certainty is categorically uncertain.

Challenges obtaining credit

Surveys specifically highlight what has continued to be an issue for Black and African American business owners: access to credit. These owners reported the highest levels of both current and predicted future difficulty accessing credit compared to other segments surveyed.

In looking for a solution, it must be acknowledged that the financial services industry in Southern Nevada as a whole must continue addressing this problem. Diverse-owned businesses have more challenges ahead of them as they stage a comeback.

They are often smaller in terms of number of employees, payroll and start-up capital, and they may not have established banking relationships. These factors make them much more susceptible to economic downturns, and they will need greater access to capital and innovation to be resilient in this pandemic.

As this situation continues to be addressed, one important step owners can take is to know their options.

In addition to traditional lending, working with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) in Southern Nevada can provide additional avenues to access capital. Supporting these institutions and their mission is at the heart of the creation of our Open for Business fund which has been providing additional funding for these institutions to continue their important work.

Flexibility and Leadership

Another key consideration (and opportunity) for business owners is recognizing when and how to pivot.

Thinking about how the experience of customers has changed can help to understand how to best serve their needs, based on where they are now. This can lead to important planning for how operating models, marketing plans and even physical spaces need to adjust.

It’s also an opportunity for small business owners to be leaders in our community.

Some ways to go about being that leader include being very communicative with employees and customers about what business owners are doing, putting those people first in your approach to pivoting, and sourcing practical information and having that inform their actions.

As was mentioned before, there’s little about the future that seems predictable right now. But a good place to start is with the things that can be controlled: how to think about customer’s needs and work to meet them, being a leader in our community and understanding what tools are available.

While guaranteeing success is a tall order for any small business right now, taking these steps can certainly move the needle in the direction it needs to go as the future unfolds.

Brian Formisano is the Southern Nevada Region Bank President for Wells Fargo. For more information on how to navigate the current environment as a small business owner, visit our Small Business Resource Center at https://smallbusinessresources.wf.com/

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