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COB Alumni, Advisory Board Member Win Chamber Awards

Two UCA College of Business alumni and an advisory board member are among the honorees for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting awards.

Jeff Standridge, Ed.D., adjunct professor of finance and COB Advisory Board member, received the Guy W. Murphy Distinguished Service Award. The award is the highest honor given each year to an individual or group for special service for the benefit of the community who has taken a leadership role in business, civic and social service organizations.

“Dr. Jeff Standridge is a catalyst behind many initiatives and organizations in Conway,” said the chamber in its release announcing this year’s honorees. “He is an advocate for the community and a driver of the economy.”

Standridge’s work as managing director at Conductor, a public-private between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie, which provides assistance, mentorship and coaching to entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses in Arkansas.

“Standridge works to propel innovation and entrepreneurship in Conway and central Arkansas,” said the chamber’s release. “He is an innovator at his core, but his true talents lie in his ability to connect and inspire those around him and to help others develop and perform as highly as possible.”

Standridge and his wife, Lori, established the Dr. Jeff and Lori Standridge Innovation & Entrepreneurship Scholarship in 2019. The award benefits an upperclassman majoring in innovation and entrepreneurship in the College of Business. The scholarship was the first endowed scholarship in innovation and entrepreneurship at UCA.

Drew Gainor (BBA ’10) was named Business Executive of the Year. The award recognizes the top leader at a business who is a driving force and works to maintain an enriched business climate and enhanced quality of life in Conway.

Gainor is managing director at Northwestern Mutual.

“Gainor’s leadership within Northwestern Mutual has been instrumental at a local, regional, and national level,” said the chamber, which also commended Gainor’s development of other advisors to “flourish in the community.”

READ MORE: Up Close with Drew Gainor

“He does this by casting a vison for others and helping them build the roadmap to achieve success.” said the chamber. “His vison and leadership extend well beyond the Conway location, where he consults and participates in joint partner work with advisors nationally to help them better serve their clients.”

Gainor and his wife, Lauren, established the Drew Marshall Gainor Scholarship in the College of Business on UCA Day of Giving in 2018. The scholarship benefits minority Hispanic students who are studying economics, finance, insurance and risk management, or innovation and entrepreneurship.

Paul Bradley (BBA ’06, MBA ’10) was named Young Business Leader of the Year. The award recognizes a community business leader under 40 who has helped create a more vibrant business and social environment in Conway.

READ MORE: ‘COB Gave Me Advantage in Career’

Bradley is the director of marketing at Conway Regional Health System.

“He has brought innovation and creativity to the organization,” said the chamber. “He has developed strong peer relationships and has been effective in building and empowering a new marketing team.”

For a full list of Chamber award winners, click here.

How do Small Businesses Respond to COVID-19?

If you’re a small business owner, the last couple of weeks have been filled with long days, more stress and anxiety, and questions about the future as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

School closings, mass event cancellations and postponements, and social distancing have challenged small business models across the country, including in Arkansas. How can small businesses respond to obstacles created by COVID-19?

Remain Calm

Jeff Standridge, Ed.D., adjunct instructor of Finance and managing director of the Conductor, said small business clients, customers and employees are looking to the owner for guidance.

“Your attitude and demeanor can make them feel comfortable or worried,” said Standridge. “Your thoughts impact your feelings, your feelings impact your actions, and your actions impact your results.”

Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes: Reach Out!

Business owners should figure out ways to make customers more comfortable in doing business with them in the middle of self-isolation and reduced trips outside the home, said Standridge.

“Before you decide to close for two weeks, look for ways to reduce human contact points within your business,” he said. “If you can serve your customers remotely, you should do it.”

It is important for customers to see care, concern and empathy from businesses, said Standridge.

“It builds trust and loyalty,” he said. “Reduce risks, increase convenience, go above and beyond to meet their physical and emotional needs.”

Reaching out to top customers or clients, asking how they can be helped and informing them of changes your business is making can be helpful.

“Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through,” said Standridge. “Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.”

Doing the Right Thing Now Will Benefit You in the Long Run

The potential for negative press, ill will or loss of business from the general public is possible for the firms and businesses that do nothing or are slow to respond to the crisis, said Parker Woodroof, Ph.D., assistant professor of Marketing.

Whether it is transitioning to online services, reimbursing clients for missed or canceled services or offering gratuities, “being the first small business in the competitive environment gives you a competitive edge and advantage,” said Woodroof.

Go Online

When many stores shuttered in China and workers stayed home in response to COVID-19, Standridge said the savvy business owners shifted their sales strategy to social media, email and phone calls to avoid heavy losses.

“If you’re closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by reaching out to your clients, selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads,” he said.

Keep Your Routine

Things may not seem the same at the moment, but it’s important to keep some semblance of a routine.

Always have coffee with a mentor? Lunch with a fellow small business owner? Keep those appointments, said Vance Lewis, Ph.D., assistant professor of Management, just adapt.

“You can still have those morning coffee chats, greetings, lunches and comradery over the phone or internet just as easily as in-person.”

Plan for Cash Flow Implications & Get Help

Develop and plan for scenarios likely to result in an increase or decrease in demand for your products and services during the outbreak, said Standridge.

“Determine any potential impact on business financials using multiple possible scenarios that affect different product lines or store locations,” he said.

Other strategies that can be implemented include:

  • Reduce or eliminate all non-business-critical tasks and expenses.
  • Identify essential, revenue-critical employees and make sure they are focused on business-critical tasks.
  • If you reduce staffing levels, consider developing rotating work schedules to continue serving clients. Maintain some level of income to as many employees as possible.
  • Talk to your bank and suppliers about alternate payment arrangements. Talk to suppliers about extending payables. Talk to your bank about temporary interest-only payment arrangements.
  • Eliminate excess inventory to generate cash.
  • If the situation calls for it, reach out to your bank about the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Recovery Loan program.

Cynthia Burleson, director of the Center for Insurance & Risk Management, said it could be beneficial for small business owners to consider business income coverage.

“This is nuanced and often misunderstood,” said Burleson. “Owners need to understand their policy to see if they may have the potential for partial help due to loss of income.”

For more information regarding the policy, click here.

Doug Voss, director for the Center for Logistics, Education, Advancement & Research and Scott E. Bennett Arkansas Highway Commission Chair, encouraged small businesses to negotiate payment terms with financial institutions.

“Protect your employees’ health and financial well-being to every extent possible, and avail yourself of state and federal assistance programs,” said Voss.

For more information on programs available to small businesses, click here.

The Conductor provides free, one-on-one virtual consultation for small businesses.

“We work every day to help business owners in Arkansas to get their game plan together if they need guidance or assistance,” said Standridge.

Go to arconductor.org to set up a session.