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Small Business survival guide to the pandemic: Four top tips going forward

Written by Paula Whitehouse on Monday, 04 January 2021.

While the discovery of multiple vaccines is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been waiting for, there is still likely to be another six months of restrictions which could prove to be make or break for some small and medium sized businesses.

Small Business survival guide to the pandemic: Four top tips going forward

While the discovery of multiple vaccines is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been waiting for, there is still likely to be another six months of restrictions which could prove to be make or break for some small and medium sized businesses.  As we approach Christmas, the pressure is on to ensure sales are still high despite ongoing restrictions. 

We’ve seen the adaptability and flexibility of small businesses, something unique to their size and ability to make quick decisions. This has meant small businesses are able to navigate these turbulent times. Now more than ever small businesses need to be pivoting to ensure their continued survival and growth. 

Although each business is unique, the past 10 months have given some key lessons in business survival. We must learn from earlier lockdowns and restrictions to ensure SMEs can continue to survive. 

There are some initial tips and tricks which will help with business survival.  

Utilise digital technology

Since March this year businesses have had to be quick to adapt to technology, with some having to switch to becoming digital overnight. In the long run this will be hugely beneficial to businesses, as the world turns more and more to technology.

As the opportunity for visiting the high street has become more difficult, particularly for those in tier 3 restrictions, using these newly adopted digital tools is essential. It is a vital tool in business continuity for customers. An improved website, with better online buying functionality, or Zoom calls set up to continue providing services to clients, can ensure that a business can keep turning over.  Technology will also allow a business to access new markets, beyond their initial radius. 

Businesses should also look at how they can utilise this new technology to increase productivity and increase growth beyond functionality tools. This will be different depending on the business and its key focus, it could be technology to streamline the supply chain, distribution or marketing strategies. 

Tailoring a marketing strategy to the current situation 

It is important to ensure you are re-mapping the customer journey given the changing tier restrictions and changed social patterns since March. 

The public are behaving differently, so too are they interacting with brands and businesses differently: encountering them through different channels and choosing to consume through diverse motivations, from online engagement to buying products. Keep listening to your customers and understand their changing motivations to ensure you are aligned with what interests them. This opens up opportunities as well as closing doors, and it is important you are prepared for new customers you had not previously targeted. 

Integrity

More than ever before businesses are being judged by their response to the pandemic. Think how you can make a positive impact on staff, customers and the wider community as well as how you can contribute towards tackling environmental and societal issues such as net zero carbon targets. 

Communication is key and it is important to make sure you communicate your vision to your staff and customers; it is their loyalty which will be essential during the coming months. It will also support you in the long term, as your positive work will be recognised by a wider audience.

Financial planning 

During this period, it is important to keep up communication with stakeholders such as banks and funders even more than usual. Keep looking out for measures by national and local government such as grant schemes that you might be eligible for as these change often.

If you do find yourself in debt look at revising your debt payment terms – If businesses have existing debts which they are finding difficult to meet, they should consider agreeing to revised payment terms with their creditors. This is ultimately in the interest of both parties.

There are programmes which can support and help you with all these changes. The Small Business Leadership Programme is a free online course delivered by top business schools to business leaders. It is designed to help them to enhance their business’s resilience through Covid-19 and develop their potential for future growth. 

There is no doubt the pandemic continues to be a rollercoaster ride, and to impact everyday life. However, we have so far seen the opportunity small to medium size businesses have to pivot and adapt and the positive potential the future may hold. 

The Small Business Leadership Programme will provide the essential confidence and tools businesses need to both survive and thrive in this most difficult of trading environments.

About the Author

Paula Whitehouse

Paula Whitehouse

Paula Whitehouse is Associate Dean for Enterprise at Aston Business School, and Director of the Aston Centre for Growth which she co-founded in 2014. Paula leads on the development of growth programmes and other business support initiatives at the Centre which have provided targeted support to over 700 SMEs since its inception. These have included the European funded Aston Programme for Small Business Growth which has accelerated the growth of over 160 early stage businesses in the Midlands region since 2015, and the Midlands programme of Productivity through People, a national initiative with Be the Business which welcomed its first Midlands businesses in 2018.

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