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Seeds of optimism as small businesses start to navigate the return to work

Written by Chris Evans on Monday, 06 July 2020. Posted in Insight, Analysis

Whilst it’s clear there will be no sudden return to normality, as lockdown measures ease, green shoots of optimism are beginning to appear.

Seeds of optimism as small businesses start to navigate the return to work

Whilst it’s clear there will be no sudden return to normality, as lockdown measures ease, green shoots of optimism are beginning to appear.

In fact, the latest research from QuickBooks shows that three in five small business owners say they are confident about business activities in the next month, a marked shift from April’s findings, which showed only 46% said they were hopeful of activity.

More businesses are back up and running

Figures show the proportion of businesses that have completely stopped operating has fallen from 20% in April to 13% as businesses find new ways to reach customers and lockdown starts to lift.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the small business community is incredibly resilient and agile. One such business that has continued to operate against the odds, is Stag Coffee in Ashford and Canterbury.

When social distancing measures forced Freddie Hewett - Barista and Founder - to close his business, he made a decision to pivot his business to an online grocery service. Leveraging his network of local suppliers and setting up an e-commerce website, Freddie has since been delivering to on average forty households a day, five days a week.

In an industry where half of all small businesses are still unable to resume operations, pivoting to an online business has been a lifeline. And in fact, despite reopening the doors to his coffee shop earlier this month, Freddie is now determined to build on the initial success of his digital offering and has ambitions to expand the offering by adding new suppliers.

Guidance on reopening

Like Freddie, for those are also reopening their business in the coming weeks, how they plan to do so could be pivotal to their long-term success. Businesses will have to adapt to new ways of working that allow social distancing, without interfering with operations or customer requirements.

However, most business owners are unclear as to where to even begin; over three fifths (62%) say they need more guidance and support on how to reopen safely.

The government has provided a number of sector specific guides on how to reopen your business COVID-19 secure, as have most industry bodies. These resources are a great start for small business owners for getting to grips on returning to work.

Communicating your return to ‘normality’ is also key to reassuring your customer base and increasing customer confidence in these uncertain times. Maintaining a positive and informative tone of voice on any social channels and updating relevant business information such as opening times on your Google business page are key to sharing information with existing and future customers.

Easing the burden of admin

Given the challenges of navigating a return to work, the last thing small businesses and their staff need to worry about is admin. Digital tools can make the day-to-day running of a business more efficient and can play a key role in helping small business owners understand their recovery trajectory.

Digital tools are also the quickest and simplest way of running payroll. Many businesses will also have to consider changes to their payroll systems either to accommodate employees working reduced hours, or employees still on the rapidly changing furlough scheme.

For example, furloughed employees can be paid directly with QuickBooks payroll products. It can also override the usual three-day waiting period and immediately issue statutory sick pay to employees affected by COVID-19.   

Financial management software products come with a host of benefits, including real-time information on your business performance and automatically chase late invoices. This means less time spent on financial admin and more time concentrating on getting your business back on track.

It’s encouraging to see more businesses being able to return to work, but now is not the time to lose focus. As the backbone of our economy it is crucial small businesses are able to phase back to work smoothly and safely.

Productivity is more important than ever in the current situation, and SMEs need to focus on maximising their output and capabilities in order to bounce back. Utilising digital processes can increase overall productivity by 50% and as such help these businesses survive and flourish

About the Author

Chris Evans

Chris Evans

Chris Evans is Vice President and UK Country Manager of accounting software, Intuit QuickBooks. Chris has been part of the company’s UK team for the last nine years, his previous role was UK sales director. Chris’ mission is to work hand in hand with the accounting industry to enable small businesses embrace digital, solve cash flow and unlock growth.

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