To say the least, Covid-19 has caused mass disruption across the globe and has thrown unprecedented levels of uncertainty in everyone’s way. And we know that one group of people who are really suffering as a result are small business owners…
As this pandemic unravels, small business owners aren’t able to just think about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones because they’re also responsible for the health and safety of their businesses, including their staff, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders who depend on them.
As small business owners ourselves, we have experienced sleepless nights, increased anxiety and near-exhaustion trying to understand and manage the impact that Covid-19 is having on WHYSUP, which is why we want to share some of the things that we have done so far to protect our business, in the hope that they will help others to get through these tough times.
Remember, it is not what you do when things go right that define you, but what you do when they go wrong.
The advice that we’re about to share with you is not to be taken as expert advice but as tips shared by two SME owners, who are trying themselves to navigate a business through these turbulent and uncertain times.
1. Regular Communication and Transparency
The more you know about what’s going on around you, the better you can prepare for what’s coming, which is why our first piece of advice for you as a small business owner is to be transparent and communicate with all your stakeholders as much as possible. If they do the same for you, everyone will have a bit more clarity, which is undoubtedly needed.
With your Stakeholders:
Keep the conversation going with your partner organisations, suppliers, clients and other key stakeholders of your business - not just to know where they stand, but to also inform them of your position, so you can all plan accordingly for any potential upcoming challenges and knock-on effects.
And don’t forget your wider Business Community…
At a time where so many people are acting out of character by only thinking of themselves (bulk-buyers & those openly socialising without precaution), the strong camaraderie of the business world must be preserved, not just for the sake of those within it, but to serve as an example for everybody else.
So, if you can, share any helpful information that you come across, and any steps you’re taking to protect your business (including employees). You never know how relevant this information might be to another business.
Likewise, keep your eyes peeled for anything that someone else is doing that would help you to emulate.
With your Employees:
The same as above, keep them in the loop. Your employees will undoubtedly appreciate knowing where the company is at, because it gives them a chance to effectively manage their own affairs and prepare for what’s next.
You might actually be surprised at how many of your employees (who have worked to keep your business breathing for however long) step up to help if you openly discuss the options available to you as a business and to them as employees.
As an example: I spoken to a client yesterday who chose to let their whole company know the amount of damage that their business has endured so far as a result of Covid-19, and the options they have to try and keep the business alive for at least the next few weeks. These options included making people redundant, letting people go unpaid, and closing their doors altogether.
My client was astounded by the response from their team of over 40 employees, who were so empowered and appreciative that they had been let in on the state of affairs, they all offered to take voluntary redundancy, pay cuts and even get part-time jobs so they can work for free and save the business that they love.
These people clearly understand that we are stronger together.
2. Look at your Cash flow
Now we’re not trying to teach you to suck eggs here, but when disaster strikes, some people like to bury their head in the sand to avoid discomfort. In this case, that might mean avoiding looking at your cash flow.
But we want to stress that keeping track of your cash flow situation – current and projected - is arguably the most important thing for you to do right now, because it will inform the financial steps you must take to protect your business.
If you haven’t already, do this soon as possible. Try to predict any cash flow problems that might arise in the next few weeks and months (which your conversations with suppliers etc. should inform), and ask yourself if there’s anything you can change right now to better protect your business (i.e., putting on a sale, pausing certain operations, having conversations with employees about unpaid leave etc.).
And don’t over-egg it by looking at your ‘best-case scenario’. Prepare yourself by looking at the worse-case. Figure out, if the worst happens, what are you going to do? and start putting provisions in place for if that day comes (i.e., let your employees know that if the worst happens, they may need to look for alternative work).
3. Use your time effectively
In the day-to-day running of a small business it can be really hard to find time to work on strategy or revisit your long-term plan for the business; because everyone involved is normally spinning multiple plates at a time, there’s rarely room to focus on anything but the here-and-now.
However, if parts of your business are slow right now because of the pandemic, but you think you’re going to be ok in the long-term, why not use this time to plan your comeback? perhaps with a few extras, like a new area of growth.
It’s true, your income may be affected right now, and your business may be slowing but if there’s nothing more you can do, keep working on your relationships, your connections and your network. You never know what might come of it.
4. Stay ahead of the Curve
I’m sure the last thing you want to do right now is glue yourself to the news, but you should be at least watching the daily updates and keep checking the gov.com website for any new information that might be relevant to you and your business.
There’s now a COVID-19 section on the gov.com site which is full of advice for businesses of different sizes, including information on business rates relief, statutory sick pay for employees, enhanced grants and more.
On a final note:
We made a pledge two years ago to help everyone we can in their time of need, but we also feel that communities everywhere must now band closer together to help each other through these unprecedented times. We currently have a sale on our not-for-profit merchandise store, which funds an essential Support Line and other free services for people struggling with their mental health. Without people buying from our store, we cannot fund this essential service. Any support you can give will be massively appreciated. To get yourself some Clothing with a Conscience, use the code 'WHYSUP25' at the Checkout. We also have a Help page full of advice, guidance and mental health resources for those who need further support.