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Mike Vann says the phone started ringing only a few moments after the e-mail blast went out last Friday to clients and other companies across the region.

It wasn’t a flood of calls, but there were several, and he expects there to be many more in the days and weeks to come. That because his company, the Vann Group, a business consulting firm with a number of specialties, has assembled what it is calling a ‘COVID-19 Crisis Response Team’ to help businesses deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

And a good number of businesses are already in what could be called crisis mode, and the ones that aren’t will likely end up there.

“A lot of companies are going to hit with serious cash-flow issues; if they’re not there now, we probably will be at some point,” he said, adding that a major trust of this new service will be helping companies make sense of the massive, $2 trillion federal stimulus package passed last week, as well as other forms of assistance, and decide which path is best for them.

“There’s a number of different options there — there’s the payroll-protection program within the CARES Act, which will certainly get the most attention, but there’s also the SBA disaster loans and whatever the states are doing,” he explained. “And there’s a variety of options on the federal side; we’ll help people navigate what makes the most sense.”

Vann said creation of the team — comprised of himself, his father and company founder Kevin Vann, and Vann employee Nick Carella — was inspired by incoming calls from clients who had questions that needed answering and a desire to get on top of the situation, to whatever extent that’s possible.

“They’re calling and asking, ‘what does this mean, how do we go about it?’” he noted. “So we thought we would try to get ahead of it a little bit and formalize something so people know they can come to us to help them out.”

The team will provide resources and guidance to support businesses as they navigate those critical strategic, financial, and general business issues that are impacting their organization. More specifically, the team will be assisting organizations with:

• Assistance with the identification and submittal of applications for grants, loans, and other relief programs that a business may qualify for;

• Negotiation support with lenders, landlords, and vendors as well as practical guidance on how to deal with hard business issues; and

• Development of cash-flow models to provide a plan for managing the financial aspects of the business, which will be necessary in determining loan and grant requests.

The team is also launching what it’s calling the “Getting to Next” workshop to help individual companies formulate a strategic action plan for getting through the current period of uncertainty while being ready to capitalize on opportunities once the curve is flattened. The facilitated session is approximately two to three hours and results in a clear and concise plan of attack for the next 30-90 days.

Vann told BusinessWest that how companies respond to the many challenges they’re facing in the coming weeks will be critical to their survival. In such an environment, a proactive response is needed, he added.

Looking for such a response, a number of companies have already called looking for help. And, as might be expected, they cover a wide spectrum of business sectors because virtually all of them are being impacted in some way, shape, or form.

“We’ve heard from financial-services companies, a printing company, a landscaper, and some pretty good-sized service businesses,” he noted. “And, of course, there’s the restaurant scene as well; it runs the gamut.”

Some of these businesses were existing Vann Group clients, but others were not, he went on, adding that this could well become a solid opportunity for the firm.

“A lot of business owners will need help with just stabilizing the business,” he told BusinessWest. “That includes cash-flow projections and looking out from that standpoint, because we’re in completely uncharted territory.”

—George O’Brien