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How small businesses are surviving the coronavirus crisis

Brandon Ridenour, the CEO of ANGI Homeservices, joins The Final Round to discuss how the small business sector is weathering the coronavirus outbreak, and how Congress can continue to support small business owners.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: All right, welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." We'll hear from Jen Rogers in just a little bit. Technical difficulties come from Jen. We're joined now by Brandon Ridenour. He is the CEO of ANGI Homeservices. Brandon, thanks so much for joining the program today. And we didn't talk to you all that long ago. Last time we talked, coronavirus really not on anybody's radar.

Can you just give us, kind of from the highest level, an update on how the halting of economic activity, really across the country at this point, has impacted your business? And as you guys look to the next month or two, how are you trying to just level set things here so on the other side of this you can pick back up and your partners can pick back up as we kind of unfreeze the economy?

BRANDON RIDENOUR: Yeah, it's a great question. The home service industry continues to operate. Obviously, almost every state has deemed home services essential services. And as you can imagine, keeping our homes operating, and safe, and functioning is critical and never more important than when we're all being asked to shelter at home.

So a lot of the essential and critical services continue to happen, but there's no question that the situation and the current crisis is having an impact, in the sense that people are, perhaps, putting off a discretionary project or remodel project, or maybe rather than upgrading an AC unit, they've decided to go ahead and repair it. So we're seeing some of the work shift to the more critical, must-do type of projects.

Guessing the future is obviously difficult for any of us, but what we see is, certainly, 8 to 12 weeks of pretty severe impact while the lockdown stay in effect. And what we're very specifically advocating for is direct relief and funding, in the form of guaranteed loans, very specifically to these home services businesses.

Within the home services industry, it's a $500 billion industry, but it's made up of almost 80% sole proprietors or companies less than 20 employees. We think the government took a really important first step with the CARES Act, but what we need to make sure is that the smallest businesses that form the backbone of the home services industry are able to get access to these funds and to do so urgently.

DAN ROBERTS: Brandon, Dan Roberts here. Thanks for joining us. You say that, you know, the home services industry continues a pace right now. And obviously, what we're talking about are critical jobs that need to get done. And it's interesting. Anecdotally, in my town in Connecticut, I have seen a lot of homebuilding continue, which I guess is something that can still happen. Those people are outdoors and maybe they're separate from each other.

But I would ask about-- you know, part of what is done so often on Angie's List, on the site, is people ordering jobs done where someone comes to their home. And obviously, right now, depending on what state you're in, there's sort of a level of guilt about that.

A similar example-- maybe it's not Angie's List thing. But I need a haircut. And I'm wondering if a barber could come to the house, but then I realized, well, you're not supposed to be putting people in danger and social distancing. What are you seeing on the site as a result of that? I mean, are people hesitant right now to order a handyman to come to their [AUDIO OUT] and do something? And what are the workers for hire on the site saying about, hey, I'm available. It's OK. It's OK. I can come in and do a job.

BRANDON RIDENOUR: Well, you're absolutely spot on. You know, first, people do have hesitancy about any nonessential services in this moment. Everybody's trying to do their part to bend the curve, and that's part of it. But beyond that, even for the essential services, of course, you know, people have a little concern with having somebody come in their house.

And on the service provider side, you see the same thing, where they may be concerned, as well, about ensuring that they're not exposed and at any health risk. So what we are doing, and what we see are providers doing, is effectively communicating with their customers about the actions they're taking to guarantee their health and safety.

That includes coming with protective gear. That includes coming with cleaning supplies to deep clean and then obviously, throughout the interaction, ensuring that there's six feet of space between individuals. So there's a lot of activity and a lot of actions happening to effectively both put people at ease for the essential services and to actually guarantee people's safety as they get the work done that needs to get done to keep their house functioning.

MELODY HAHM: Hey, Brandon. Melody here. When you think about your role, you are obviously a business executive of a publicly-traded company, but you also think about the public policy component. I know you wrote a letter to Congress. But you're also navigating all of these small business owners who are in a very dire situation. I think the main question that has come up in my reporting is just hearing from small business owners, they don't know how to navigate the government system.

They've never applied for a small business loan before, say. They don't understand what these new policies that are being rolled out-- how exactly they will benefit or it's worth the time for them to apply. How are you educating the people in your network to really make sure that the ROI is there for them?

BRANDON RIDENOUR: Melody, you're exactly right. In 2008, this industry took an enormous hit from the financial crisis and the housing crisis. And what we saw at that time were hundreds of thousands of these businesses go out of business and millions of people actually left the workforce. They actually never returned, and we cannot afford to see the skilled trades that form this industry further deteriorate.

We've had a shortage of this labor for the past five-plus years, and we can't take a chance for us, for the economy, and for homeowners to see that further collapse under this short-term crisis. So what we're doing very specifically-- and understand that we believe that three months from now, this looks very different. So it's about helping these businesses continue to operate through the heart of this crisis that we expect certainly won't be as deep as it is during the lockdown period.

We are reaching out not only to our own customers, which comprise about 250,000 small businesses, but to every business that we know of in the industry and we are helping to direct them to resources and the process by which they can get funding. What we're doing in parallel on the legislative front is advocating to make this process simple and urgent.

Very, very simple so that people can both apply and understand the terms of relief quickly and easily, but the funds also need to be delivered very urgently. If this is something that's gonna happen six weeks from now, it's too late. These businesses need the cash flow and they need the ability to keep their head above water over the next four to six weeks as its most critical period.

JEN ROGERS: Brandon Ridenour, CEO of ANGI Homeservices, really driving home the fact of how quickly this needs to happen for many of America's small business owners. Brandon, great to see you. Thank you so much.