Boosting business through the winter

Small businesses got a bit of a welcome boost recently, with news about a vaccine for COVID-19 on the horizon. A glimmer of hope that 2021 could bring much better things.

Boosting business through the winter

Small businesses got a bit of a welcome boost recently, with news about a vaccine for COVID-19 on the horizon. A glimmer of hope that 2021 could bring much better things.

But right now, we are still very much in the eye of the storm and there are likely to be continued challenges over the winter months yet to come.

For small businesses, this brings more uncertainty and no let-up on the hurdles 2020 has so-far brought. More lockdowns, reduced footfall on high streets, reduced consumer spend and cautious business spend all bring challenges for entrepreneurs. And then, of course, there is the end of Brexit transition on the horizon.

Embrace the Chaos

It might be tempting to batten down the hatches, but it would be a mistake to focus on holding tight until the storm blow overs. Instead, small businesses have to embrace the chaos. 

I have been spending a lot of time recently thinking about the secret ingredients of resilience. Small Business Britain’s Resilience research with TSB has found that improvising and adapting, both in action and in mindset, are the key things helping small businesses through. 

Indeed, the business ‘pivot’ could perhaps have taken on ‘lockdown’ as word of the year (at least among the business community). But actually, for businesses it has not been just one pivot. A continuous process of adapting to circumstances has meant that businesses have had to throw out the old 2020 plan and think on their feet on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis. 

This must continue. Ongoing  diversification over the winter is needed from small businesses ‘ whether that is products, services or routes to market. Right now, firms need to do whatever they can to generate extra revenue and ensure cashflow. Keep working the problem and try new things. 

In the longer term, this will open up new opportunities so that on the other side of this crisis businesses could have new revenue streams to add onto old ones. This can be the foundation of future growth and underpin a long-term recovery.

Keep going

But of course, constantly pivoting is tiring. You could be forgiven for feeling like you are spinning around in circles. It takes energy, tenacity, focus and a lot strength. 

One upside is that customers are continually impressed and excited by the innovation from small businesses that they are seeing. 

Take Richard Smith who runs The Wine School of Cheshire, one of the 100 small businesses representing this year’s Small Business Saturday campaign. His business relied on the very definition of close contact; people coming together to taste wine, shake hands, share snacks. 

Blindsided by the pandemic he experimented with hosting his wine school online and was surprised by the interest. Over the summer he was able to reopen some events, but now, in the midst of another lockdown he has flipped back to lifting people’s spirits through a host of new virtual sessions, such as his tips on Christmas wines. But he also has an eye on the future, for example announcing a new partnership with a local river cruise company that promptly sold out.

Every community needs a Richard now. They need someone to help them find pleasure in lockdown, to give them milestones to work towards and dates for the diary again. No wonder they are rallying behind his business and cheering him on.

Finding new ways to solve problems is absolutely what small businesses do and have done for all time. They are at the centre of innovation in the UK and are likely to be the place that the future of business post-pandemic will find its roots.

This is something to be excited about. It is something to aim for. Small businesses definitely can adapt and overcome the challenges of 2020 and move into 2021 with hope that there is a future to be had. It’s going to be a tough ride, but recent news should give us a boost of hope. You just need to hang on in there.

Michelle Ovens
Michelle Ovens

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