The UK has officially been on lockdown since 23rd March, and with that being extended well into May at the earliest, nobody is sure when normal service will resume.
For businesses providing essential services, trading has carried on within the new guidelines. For others, it has meant adapting – remote working, social distancing, even changes in services offered. And unfortunately, for some, it’s meant shutting up shop altogether.
If you’re operating at a reduced level, and find yourself with more time on your hands, now might be a good time to take stock and think about how to use that extra time effectively.
After all, the more you can do now to prepare, the better the position your business will be in when the lights go green again.
1. Financial Planning
Finances are an obvious and immediate concern for many businesses. While it might be tempting to bury your head in the sand until this all blows over, it’s much better to face the reality head-on and get to grips with the numbers.
Short-Term – Cash Flow
Firstly, comes cash flow. We know that for small businesses, this is the single biggest factor in their survival. As a priority, you’ll need a firm grasp on what’s expected to come in and go out over the next few months.
To ease the burden on cash flow, now is also a great time to review your expenses. Is there anything that might be considered a luxury, or that you can easily do without for a while?
If it’s not looking good, you’ll be seeking whatever support you can get. The Government has announced a wide range of support packages for both businesses and individuals. Whether you’re the owner of a limited company or a sole trader, you’ll want to factor this in.
Despite the huge financial support package on offer, it’s reasonable to expect delays in this filtering through.
In fact, due to disaster the CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) has been for many businesses, the Chancellor has just announced further support through Bounce Back Loans – available from 9 am on Monday 4th May, and paid within 24 hours.
To help you out, we’ve put together a Business Support Hub that can guide you through the ins and outs – for tax, borrowing, mortgages, payroll and more.
And, don’t forget – If you’re self-employed, now might be a great time to get the self-assessment tax return done!
Long-Term – Recovery
Once you’ve faced the elephant in the room and addressed short-term financial issues, it’s time to look a bit further ahead.
Nobody knows how things are going to pan out, but a risk assessment and planning session could help guide your business into 2021. If your cash flow is under control, you can begin budgeting for the recovery.
Perhaps you have some new ideas on how your business can pivot and adapt its offering, or you’ve devised a new digital marketing campaign making the most of technology to reach new customers.
A clear financial plan is essential to get you moving in the right direction when the time comes.
It’s difficult to plan in detail when there are so many unknowns, but the better you measure the impact of current circumstances, the better prepared you’ll be to anticipate and react in the longer-term.
Now is not the time to go quiet. Communication is just as important as ever, if not more so. Many people and businesses are going through a tough time, but it’s only made easier if we talk to and support each other.
If you have staff members, it’s important to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them personally. They may be worried about their job, or the livelihoods and health of family members.
Make sure to communicate what plans you have in place for the business and be clear on how you can support them.
If you’re facing tough decisions about letting staff go, make sure you’ve both read and understood the Government’s scheme to cover a proportion of furloughed employees’ wages first.
Employees can also check their own eligibility for the coronavirus job retention scheme.
If your employees are now working remotely, make the most of technology to keep in regular contact. Some people may find they are even more productive at home, while others will be trying to keep their kids entertained (or getting used to becoming a teacher overnight too)!
When you and your business are facing exceptional challenges and stress, it’s easy to take knee-jerk reactions. Keeping a calm head when communicating with your customers and suppliers is crucial.
If you’re making adaptations to your services due to coronavirus, make sure these are clearly communicated to your customers.
Expectations are different now, and you’ll want to make sure that the health and safety of your employees and customers is the priority.
Your website and social media can be ideal channels for communicating these changes effectively.
Equally, speak to your suppliers to find out how they might be affected. Some may be willing to cut you slack on payment terms or offer more flexibility. You might also be able to support one another in different ways.
If you’re one of the people finding you have a bit more time on your hands, or a business owner that’s had to make changes to the way you operate, there are often positives to look for.
You can use the extra time to think. It’s often undervalued, but time away from the day-to-day running of your business might give you the space you need to reflect and strategise.
If you’re feeling extra motivated, you might choose to undertake some remote learning and up-skill.
With many training companies and institutions offering online resources, a new string to your bow could be just what your business needs to kick on in the future. The same goes for your employees, of course.
And, if you’re only supposed to head out for essential activities and exercise, why not make it count? It’s a great time to take up jogging, cycling or finish off that garden project you’ve been putting off for months!
You might also choose to speak more often to family and friends, and it’s this kind of support that can help us through the tough times.
Last but not least, don’t put too much pressure on yourself by setting unrealistic goals or expectations. Cutting some slack and taking the time to look after yourself is important too.
Whether it’s through choice or necessity, many businesses are changing the way they operate.
Forward-thinking firms have long since advocated the virtues of remote and flexible working. If it works now, why go back to the same old way of doing things in future?
You’ve probably had more video calls in the last month than the previous year! Making the most of apps and technology is at the core of our business, so why not investigate how they can help yours?
Some of the greatest innovations come through necessity, and your business operations are no different.
Finally, you might choose to take more time to network (virtually of course) or find out what your competitors are doing.
Like-minded business owners sharing similar values can be a source of strength and you may find the opportunity for partnership and mutual benefit.