Unlike other previous economic crises, as the UK economy gradually reopens in the next few weeks, UK bosses have a lot more to contend with. The issues facing small businesses this time around are compounded in the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, the repercussions of which will be long-lasting. How do business leaders guide and grow their companies in this unique situation?
A recent snap poll by Vistage, a world-leading business performance and leadership advancement organisation for small and midsize businesses, found that 63.2% of UK business leaders are most worried about the safety of their workforce and a fifth (20%) of business leaders are concerned by economic slowdown after the lockdown is eased. Many SMEs face a major challenge balancing health and economic concerns in the coming weeks.
Below are three key priorities every small business leader can focus on as their business reopens in the coming days.
Carry out a risk assessment
The UK government has proposed a three-step plan for the phased reopening of society and businesses. Understandably, businesses are eager to open their doors because many rely solely on their physical premises to operate, so owners are ramping up preparations to safeguard their workspaces before they reopen. As an employer, you have a duty to assess and manage any risks of infection to staff and customers.
The Government’s guidelines are designed to help owners get businesses back to normal and operate as safely as possible. While this might mean implementing new initiatives that may overhaul your processes, staffing levels or slightly reduced productivity and increase the cost of doing business, it is important to give your staff and clients the confidence to return. This may seem daunting at first, but there are resources that offer practical guidance and ideas that you and your team can employ to comply with the new rules.
Understand your customers and stakeholders
As your business returns to normality, employers should take the time to take stock of what has changed for their clients, customers, suppliers and communities. This pandemic has not only disrupted everyday life, but it has accelerated the pace of change, business needs and customer expectations. Your business may need to pivot, rethinking your goals and values to meet the new reality on the ground. Communicate openly and regularly with stakeholders and staff and ensure to take on learnings from the pandemic to innovate your operations, models and purpose. For some, this means testing radically new markets and products or using this time to upgrade and update inefficient business processes.
According to chartered accountants’ group ACCA and The Corporate Finance Network, 89% of business owners have reported feeling more stressed from the impact of coronavirus and one in ten (11%) disclosed that they’ve had suicidal thoughts. Running a business is both mentally and physically demanding, yet many business leaders underestimate the impact it can have on their mental health and the dangers burnout can have on the rest of the workforce. During the lockdown, our Vistage members have found that the Vistage Group settings and peer network has provided one of the few places available for them to openly share their thoughts, seek advice and support as well as feel part of a group. This is not a time to stand alone. There is ample support available to help CEOs shoulder the responsibility of the job and to make them smarter decision makers.
This crisis provides an opportunity for small businesses to respond genuinely to customers’ needs and engage in the communities they operate in by adding value to their pressing concerns. By focusing on these core priorities during the first phase of the reopening, you will put your business in a position to pivot quickly and build goodwill among your key stakeholders.