Clinic Owners Use Covid-19 Crisis as Opportunity for Introspection

By Amanda Kuhnert

“We’ve tried to make the best of this extremely stressful time by focusing on the things we can control and imagining how to improve our business when we eventually reopen,” said Cortney Keene, co-owner of Keene Perspectives in White River Junction, a behavioral health center for children with autism and other developmental disorders. 

At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, Cortney and her husband Chris implemented procedures at the clinic to help limit the spread of the virus, from restricting the number of visitors to increasing cleaning. But when schools were ordered to close, they decided to temporarily pause operations. They contacted Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) advisor Ross Hart for advice, and began researching federal and state assistance programs.

“After chatting with Ross, we immediately approached VEDA (the Vermont Economic Development Authority), which helped with our first small business loan,” Cortney said. “We were approved for a PPP loan on April 4. Now we’re working on telehealth, bringing back staff little by little, and planning for the summer when we typically have more kids and need more staff.” She said they’re trying to get creative around how to provide services safely and use the loan within the forgiveness guidelines. 

The couple is also using this pause as an opportunity for introspection. “We’re taking a hard look at our systems,” Courtney said. “What are our pain points? What can we do to alleviate them? What else can we do for and with our staff? We’ve even set up a bit of a command center in our house with six whiteboards and two TV screens!”

During this time of social isolation, the Keenes are reaching out. Cortney has spoken with several national publications, including the Associated Press and New York Times, about her experience. After she sent a Facebook message to Gusto, her payroll company, to thank them for providing great reporting, their public relations department contacted her to ask if she would be willing to share her story. 

Support for Small Businesses

Rapid decision-making has become the new normal for business owners during the Covid-19 crisis. But in order to adapt quickly, entrepreneurs need access to timely and reliable information.

The Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), an organization that provides no-cost professional expertise and guidance to business owners, has taken on this role—helping entrepreneurs navigate the changing business landscape and plan for the aftermath of Covid-19. Their website is an information portal for Vermont business owners, offering a long list of helpful links and resources, from loan information to a VtSBDC Disaster Recovery Guide. Clients and contacts also receive weekly updates via email and access to virtual advising and guidance.