UK businesses are likely to remember 2020 as the eye of a powerful storm that many did not survive. The unparalleled shift in consumer habits provoked by COVID-19 follows the uncertainty and trade restrictions of Brexit, and a larger shift towards online shopping which started over a decade ago.
What’s already becoming clear is that those businesses which will survive are demonstrating, above all, agility. This ability to change up the game to survive actually gives small businesses a tangible advantage over corporations, many of whom have an infrastructure too bulky to quickly alter.
In this article we’ll explore five ways by which businesses are evolving to maintain adequate cash flow and prosper. If you’re a small business struggling to imagine how you’re going to weather the perfect economic storm of 2020, read on.
Flexibility is Your Friend
We’ve all read the stories of distilleries switching to making hand sanitiser, or garment factories adjusting their sewing machines to create face masks. These are great examples of businesses utilising their existing infrastructure to fulfill what they know the market needs right now. Identifying opportunities in the market is a key business skill: in the current scenario it may well be the difference between solvency and bankruptcy.
No matter how wedded you may be to an existing mode of business, this is the time to really investigate that – with a business coach if necessary – to see how it could be reimagined for the COVID age.
How can technology help your business adjust to the new world order? If you deliver training, how can you best do that remotely, using technologies such as Zoom? If you’ve been solely reliant on high street footfall, is there a way you can adopt an ecommerce strategy that will mitigate the losses brought on by lockdown?
While not every interaction from the real world can be replicated online, technology does offer ways to fulfill some of them. More importantly, increasing evidence suggests that this is the way the world is moving anyway, so you could look upon COVID-19 as an event which has merely speeded up the inevitable. Adopting an online strategy now may well be the best move you ever made.
Even if you’re the type of business owner that has never taken finance, and prides themselves on never having debt, COVID-19 may be one time to accept the support that’s offered as a means of survival. Rishi Sunak’s broad measures including Bounce Back Loans and furlough for staff have prevented thousands of businesses from insolvency.
“Since the crisis began Rishi Sunak has offered a flurry of measures to protect British business,’ comments Tony Smith of insolvency practitioners Company Debt. ‘For many of the business owners we’ve been speaking to, these have offered a life raft that gives them a chance for survival post COVID-19. With low interest, and very reasonable terms, they’re amongst the best finance deals offered in a generation.”
Any business survival plan is going to affect key employees, so make sure you bring them in right at the brainstorming stage. Businesses rise and fall on the strength of their teams so this is one instance where harvesting the ideas of your core staff will strengthen whatever path you choose. Listen patiently to them and be prepared to adapt ideas you had already based on what feedback you hear. You may surprise yourself by leaving the meeting with a much greater sense of trust, unity and determination based on a supportive crew.
Dig into the Books
Almost any business can become leaner. Work with your accountant to see where you trim the fat in order to keep the cash moving. Can you increase prices? Could you reduce prices to gain more business and increase cash flow overall, even if the margin is lower? Can you sell off inventory which isn’t needed right now, or perhaps even close a premises?
Having a great accountant who understands your business is crucial at the best of times. Right now it’s essential so if you don’t have such an individual alongside you, now’s the time to make that happen.