#VCThoughts | A Business Guide to Surviving COVID-19

Posted on October 16, 2020
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A Business Guide to Surviving COVID-19

Kristi Dannelley is president and co-owner of Magna IV, a more than 45-year-old print and marketing business in Little Rock, Arkansas. Under her guidance, Magna IV has become one of the largest printers in the Mid-South and top printers in the U.S., helping national brands centralize and streamline their marketing needs. She recently partnered with Wright Lindsey Jennings’ statewide initiative, Woman-Run, to share how she’s leading Magna IV through the COVID-19 crisis.

Q: How has Magna IV reacted and responded to COVID-19? 

A: Over the last several months, we have focused on three key areas:

1.     LIQUIDITY and building a cash bridge to get through this;

2.     PIVOTING to recognize and implement new opportunities; and

3.     COMMUNICATION with bankers, customers, vendors and employees.

 Q: What strategies can you share for shifting course and adjusting business priorities during a crisis?  

A: The Great Recession taught us it is absolutely critical to act quickly and decisively. First, you need to cut costs to sustain your business through the crisis (liquidity!). Then you must critically evaluate and anticipate the “new normal” to help align your services or products to fit the future climate (pivot!).

As an example, 2004-2007 were banner years for Magna IV. We were primarily a transactional printer. Our customers called and ordered brochures, magazines or posters, and our primary struggle was producing the work as fast as it was coming in. To handle demand, we installed a new $3.1 million press. Then the recession hit, and our clients shifted to more digital marketing. Revenues dropped 40%. To survive, we took a program- and solutions-based approach. We invested in online marketing portals, digital printing, wide format printing, cross media marketing and direct mail. Today, we have positioned ourselves as an integral and irreplaceable partner to brands’ marketing teams.

Q: Has Magna IV taken advantage of any of the small business assistance programs?

A: At the local level, I have instituted the Shared Work Program through the Arkansas Workforce Services Division to help employees whose hours have been cut to collect benefits. I also applied for the AEDC Quick Action Closing Fund loan. At the national level, I applied for the EIDL loan and PPP loan. I continue to stay-up-to-date with the changing regulations and opportunities by reading everything I can. I have watched at least 20 hours of webinars and scoured guidance from local law and accounting firms. I even started a Facebook page, @KristiDannelleyCPA, to share information I find helpful.

Q: What are key things to help small businesses ensure long-term survival during the pandemic?


  1.  Knowing your cash position is critical. Calculate your worst-case-scenario budget and be prepared to operate in those conditions for at least six months. Work with vendors to stretch payments, reduce inventory or cut and renegotiate non-essential expenses. Don’t underestimate the relationship you have with your banker who can guide you on issues like rent and mortgage deferrals.

  2.  Talk to your clients about their challenges and pain points. Where do your core competencies and capabilities intersect? Flexibility and creativity will help you successfully pivot.

  3.  Strengthen your communication and accessibility as a leader. Make time for key clients, financial partners and vendors. Increase the frequency of meetings with employees. Rally the troops and allow them to help implement cost-control efforts, generate ideas and devise new processes. This is especially important for remote workers who are missing the daily interaction of the workplace. As always, celebrate victories and progress.

  4. Understand the value of marketing. In some ways, people now have more time for “conversations” about your business. Increase your online marketing presence to meet people where they are. Double down on outreach so potential clients know you’re willing to adjust to their changing needs.

Woman-Run is focused on supporting woman- and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs through networking, mentorship, education and resources. For more information about the initiative and its upcoming events, please visit www.wlj.com/woman-run.