Considerations for small businesses during these uncertain times

Many UK businesses are understandably feeling very anxious about what the next few months has in store for them.

Considerations for small businesses during these uncertain times

Many UK businesses are understandably feeling very anxious about what the next few months has in store for them. According to a recent poll by Vistage, a business mentorship organisation, almost half (44.9%) of UK SMEs are concerned about their immediate business viability amidst the current pandemic.

The severity of the outbreak and its effect on business operations worldwide are evident. At times like these the value for business leaders to obtain support from their peers to help cope and provide guidance to each other has never been more important.

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic does seem to be showing signs of slowing down in the UK, unfortunately businesses are not experiencing the same relief and the economic impact of this situation will very likely be long-lasting.  As we enter a new phase of normal, business leaders are looking for the steps they should take to adjust and pivot in this time of crisis.

As an executive coach and mentor to a variety of outstanding SME leaders, here are some of the advice and ideas many of our business members have successfully implemented to plan and react to the current environment to give them the best chance to not only survive but thrive post-crisis.

after your team

As the corporate world adjusts to a new way of working, caring for team members should be top of the agenda of every leaders’ to-do list. Now is the time to demonstrate empathy because your staff are experiencing a lot of uncertainty at present. They’re essentially having to re-learn their jobs in an alien, isolated environment – working from home and creating new routines are all bound to take a toll.

Small business leadership needs to take hold of the reigns of their business and offer some form of normalcy to help their employees cope. Whether that be advice for staff looking for government support during furlough, or parents struggling to manage their workload with home schooling.

It’s important to consider the almost endless list of requirements that will result in helping your team to cope in the ‘new normal’, after the Coronavirus pandemic quells. For instance, many employees will be reluctant to use public transport (especially in London) and some may refuse to come back into an office for the foreseeable future; this will need to be carefully managed with empathy and flexibility while ensuring solid processes for your business to continue operating efficiently. It will also require that small businesses remain abreast of the latest government direction, putting plans in place to allow you to pivot smoothly.

Understand your customer  

Leaders shouldn’t forget about the need to build and nurture their relationships with customers and suppliers. Communicate clearly with customers and other stakeholders during this time and make it clear that you understand their situation and are willing to work and collaborate together to create a better outcome that works for everyone. Make it obvious that your business is well placed to pivot in order to explore new opportunities and learn from the current challenges. By nurturing these relationships now, your business will signal to stakeholders that you will coming out of this crisis stronger and better.

As leaders, you must ask yourself: what can I do to help? What do my customers need from me at this time? Small businesses who are able to remain agile to their customers’ needs will be better equipped to roll with the punches and keep afloat.

Innovate your business model

There’s a need for all businesses, no matter the size, to innovate and remain sensitive to consumer needs. The pandemic has hastened the pace of change in many industries and will force many companies to rethink their operation and core purpose. Innovation during this time can be difficult, particularly for firms struggling for capacity or access to resources. However, you should be spending some time applying any learnings you’ve observed during this crisis. For example, the migration from brick-and-mortar retail to ecommerce has been looming for a long time. If you were not online before the pandemic, you certainly should be now.

The golden opportunity viewpoint

When it comes to business leadership you really need to be one of two things – a risk taker and/or an optimist. As they say, there’s no time like the present. Like most crises before the pandemic, SME leaders have the golden opportunity to revisit priorities and rework the way they operate to evolve and prepare for a new ‘normal’.

Frank Esson
Frank Esson

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