During the 2008 financial crisis, my wife Ann Marie and I created AMM Communications. Through years of hard work and perseverance, we have grown our business to the point where it has been recognized as one of the top public relations firms in St. Louis. We are a leader in public relations, marketing, crisis communications, and communications skills training, providing services to a variety of mid-sized businesses, non-profits, and government entities in the U.S. and across the globe. Now our small business, and millions like ours, are facing new headwinds due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small businesses are the backbone and lifeline of our economy; Missouri is home to more than 530,000 small businesses that employ upwards of 1.2 million people. Over the past several months, more than 560,000 Missourians have lost their jobs. Friends and colleagues of mine have been forced to close down businesses they’ve spent their lives building. This public health crisis has caused a shift in not only how we conduct our daily lives, but how small businesses operate moving forward. In order to adapt to this ‘new normal,’ AMM Communications has changed the way we conduct business.
Social distancing and stay at home orders have turned in-person meetings to conference calls and Zoom sessions because we must be more cautious about personal interactions. Restaurants in St. Louis such as 58Hundred and 612 Kitchen & Cocktails have transitioned to delivery and curbside pick-up. For a small business like ours, however, this transition would not have been possible without the ability to quickly and securely process electronic payments and handle financial transactions online.
AMM Communications is able to accept credit cards for secure payment on our website through Stripe, and this technology has been essential to maintaining our cash flow during this crisis. Through a form on our website, a client can sign their contract and enter their credit card information simultaneously, which ensures that we are paid for our services prior to starting a project.
Public health is paramount, and the electronic payments system gives my customers the peace of mind that they can not only avoid unnecessary personal contact but also safely make their payments and be confident their data will be protected. I prefer it as well. The use of credit and debit cards guarantee me that I will get paid. Prior to this technology, if someone had written me a check, there was always a chance that it could bounce. As a small business owner, cash flow is extremely important, because I don’t have the luxury of extending credit. Electronic payments allow me to continue investing in and growing my business. Prior to my transition to an electronic payments system, I found myself spending a lot of money on cash transactions counting, auditing, and wasting time in the bank drive-through to deposit cash.
While these institutions have come under fire by some because they collect a small fee on sales to support the system, I fully support it. First off, I only pay that fee when a sale is made, and this nominal fee is well worth having the funds in my bank account to pay bills as they come due. While big-box stores and my largest competitors that make millions, if not billions, of dollars a year leveraging governmental price controls on their fees paid to the credit and debit card companies, what all businesses truly need is to eliminate big government mandates that give more power to the biggest corporations.
I do not need the government to tell me what is best for my business and that includes what payment method I use. I want choice and the knowledge that my business and customers will be protected from fraud. My electronic payment system is more cost-efficient and safer thanks to the investment of credit unions, community banks, and card networks that make a concerted effort to support my small business.
Ed Mayuga is a St. Louis businessman who owns AMM Communications, a public relations, marketing, and communications training firm.