Digital surveys can be a great tool for economic development organizations to connect with businesses and collect information quickly, especially in the middle of a crisis. But, collecting information is just the first step. What you do with the information once you have it is critical. Here are some ways to turn the data you collect into action:
Identify high-risk businesses
You likely asked businesses if they laid off workers, closed offices, or experienced a severe drop in sales. Businesses who respond “yes” to these types of questions experienced a significant disruption because of the COVD-19 pandemic, and are at high-risk of further reductions or even closing as the pandemic continues.
Helping these businesses survive over the next few months while the vaccine rollout continues should be a top priority.
Look at the data collected and create a set of criteria that defines what you consider to be a business that is high-risk. Then, apply that criteria to produce a list of businesses who are at high-risk. This list can be used for further analysis and, more importantly, connecting with these businesses to see how you can help.
Connect with high-risk businesses
Now that you know who your high-risk businesses are, it’s time to help them.
It’s important to never make assumptions. To understand what is really needed to support a business, a conversation with the owner is warranted. Work through your list of high-risk businesses and schedule time to talk to them. This takes time, so set yourself a reasonable weekly goal and stick to it.
Review their survey response before the meeting, and be ready to get at the ‘why’ behind their answers.
For example, you probably already know if they received a PPP loan or other financial assistance. If they didn’t, understand why – Did they apply? Were they ineligible? What can be done differently to help them receive assistance? If they did receive assistance, ask what else is needed to help them over the next few months.
For ideas on easy scheduling, and how to prepare for business meetings, check out this post by our partner, Tom Wengler.
Track All Outputs and Outcomes
First, what’s the difference?
- Outputs are the action you take such as making a call, connecting a business to a partner, or approving a permit.
- Outcome is what happens because of the action, like if the businesses received a grant, re-hired employees, or expanded their outdoor seating.
Crisis response is a lot of trial and error. In order to learn, adapt, and improve, our replace, you need to know what actions you’re taking are working, and which aren’t so you can adapt your response.
Create a simple system for tracking outputs. This list will be different for each EDO based on the tools you have access to, but might include things like:
- Followed-up with information
- Facilitated a referral
- Provided technical assistance
- Provided grant writing assistance
- Approved permit
- Other (describe)
- No action
Outcomes are a bit harder to track because they can vary from business to business. We suggest creating high-level categories like employees retained, accessed new market, or completed building improvements that can be used for analysis and reporting. Then, create a second field that is open-ended where you can add the details about outcomes and use that information for storytelling.
Turn Analysis Into Action
Reporting data is easy, but your job is to move the needle. You need the data to tell you its secrets, and you do that by asking the right questions:
- Are businesses who received a PPP loan doing better or worse than those who didn’t?
- Which sectors are continuing to operate with a remote workforce?
- Who is struggling to implement health and safety requirements?
- Has the pandemic made it harder for businesses to hire and train the workers they need?
The more you can code the data and analyze the information by sector, business size, assistance received, etc. the better you’ll be able to customize your response and aggregate resources.
Don’t be discouraged by low-response
Did you only hear from 20 businesses? That’s okay! That’s like 20 business visits. Focus on helping the people that did respond to your survey before spending too much effort trying to get a higher response.
We are here for you.
We understand that your needs are changing daily, and can work with you to develop acustom approach for your crisis response. For more information, call 607-221-6876 to reach Christa Ouderkirk Franzi, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.