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A small winter is coming: How to prepare

Written by Michelle Ovens on Wednesday, 09 September 2020. Posted in Insight, Analysis

School’s finally back, days are getting shorter, the temperature has definitely taken at least a little dip, and small businesses are preparing themselves for the final quarter

A small winter is coming: How to prepare

School’s finally back, days are getting shorter, the temperature has definitely taken at least a little dip, and small businesses are preparing themselves for a final quarter of what has been one of the strangest, hardest and most complex year for trading in living memory. 

Many small businesses kicked off 2020 with renewed optimism; a sense of expectation and confidence in a new decade bringing opportunities and growth. Plans were made, budgets were tentatively created and a path was plotted. Then came March, and all these well-made plans were thrown out. We often talk about how small businesses like stability, so feeling the earth shift so suddenly and profoundly left many feeling lost and rudderless. 

React and adapt 

However, small businesses also rise to a challenge. They are nimble, innovative, creative and relentless! When faced with the challenge of COVID-19 and lockdown, we have seen some of the fastest and most surprising adaptions to business ever, and this has been a very good thing indeed.

Adaptability will be critical to getting through, and ultimately thriving, this coming winter. With the likely challenges of a recession, local lockdowns and the end of the Brexit transition period, small businesses will need to be flexible, think on their feet and most importantly, think ahead to plan for the possible outcomes. 

Keep pivoting

With a bit of preparation, small businesses can come out ahead. Many of the pivots made in lockdown need to stay as they give small businesses alternative channels to market and alternative products or services. 

For example, local hospitality businesses that shifted to takeaway would do well to keep those services open in case of a further local lockdown. Businesses that developed ways of delivering services over video conferencing or even Facebook Live should continue to invest in those channels. And those that developed new customers, such as a wholesaler delivering direct to the public or even new export channels, should continue to develop and invest time in those routes to market.

Diversify

Diversifying income streams is a key route to small business resilience. Relying on one route to market, such as the high street, or one customer such as a big business, is a risky approach when external factors can come and shake those routes and take them out of your control. 

Now is the time to look at more routes to customers, either building on lockdown pivots or taking inspiration from some of the adaptations other small businesses have made in the last six months. 

Interrogate costs

Taking a forensic look at both your cost base and your sales channels will put you in a better position to see out 2020 and spring into 2021 with more confidence and strength. We need to shake off those plans made in January for this year and be open to new ideas. 

Because there are new ideas out there. Take hope from the incredible growth in the number of start-ups founded in June this year – a 47% growth according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs. 

There are new opportunities to be had. Take hope from the 60% of small businesses that told Small Business Britain and BT Skills for Tomorrow in our research that they had seen more support from the general public during and post lockdown - a fantastically positive trend that we can build on.

And take hope in the spirit of small business that runs through the British consciousness. We love small businesses; we start them, we grow them and we support them. With some planning, some collaboration and an entrepreneurial spirit, we can get through this winter and spring into 2021. 

About the Author

Michelle Ovens

Michelle Ovens

Michelle Ovens MBE is founder of Small Business Britain , the UK’s leading champion of UK small businesses. Michelle is also director of Small Business Saturday, a campaign to support, inspire and promote small businesses, on the day and beyond, along with being Chair of Small Business Charter.

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