Small business and Covid-19 12 Mar 2020
I read history at university, and as part of my course involved examining significant historical events and happenings. Perhaps a slightly left-of-centre opening to a blog but there’s a logical link. Because right now, we are bang in the middle of a time of significant change. Events over the past five years such as the Arab spring, mass immigration, Brexit, the meteoric rise of digital technologies and shifting social change are all part of this. And now, there’s the onset of Covid-19.
The rapid unravelling of societies over the past few weeks is unprecedented. We are, as individuals, as a community, nation and world taking steps into the unknown. Covid-19 has been declared a global pandemic. And the likelihood is that no country will remain untouched. Measures that are being taken by governments to contain it are severe and far-reaching. In the long-term, things will settle down again and normal service will resume but in the interim, the curveballs are flying.
And the impact is reverberating down through all layers of enterprise where small businesses are already more fragile than larger organisations. And running a small business amidst Covid-19 will present challenges. ItsLello is based in North Wales where many local enterprises are small businesses, often sole traders. Heavily dependent on tourism, the ripples which threaten to flow out from the arrival of coronavirus are far-reaching and could threaten livelihoods The government has already included measures in its recent budget to support businesses during this period. But I think that these will not really help many small businesses and self-employed enterprises.
I am already seeing the impact of Covid-19 on small businesses. Clients are scaling back budgets and activities and customers are thinking twice about purchases and plans. And if like me, you are self-employed or you run a small business and a small team, then you will be or should be, rapidly taking stock.
Things to consider
Think hard about how you will ride the ups and downs of the next weeks and months.
Look at how you work. Think about how you could adapt to deliver your services remotely. With tools such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, GSuite, Duo and Facetime, it is possible to run a virtual office providing you, your team and your customers have access to reliable broadband. What would happen, for example, if your children’s schools close for a length of time – could you work from home? Likewise, if you usually work from a client’s office and this closes as a containment measure, are you equipped to work from home?
Review your finances and your cash flow. Could you manage if some of your customers turn your services off for a few weeks or months? Do you need to be looking for new markets or opportunities? Can you make immediate savings and reduce expenses? Work through your own expenditure as well as business commitments and ask yourself the same question. Cut back where necessary.
Use the power of online
Can you use social media, websites and digital tools to create an alternative way of keeping business-as-usual flowing? Could you work from home? Can you take payments online using tools such as GoCardless or Paypal instead of in cash? Could you use Facebook as a shop or service window? Current events mean that is a time for “out of the box” thinking.
If you are self-employed and become ill, you will not be eligible for sick pay. Those of us who are self-employed know this – if you don’t work, you don’t earn. So practice self-care and look after yourself. Try to minimise the risk of becoming unwell in the first place. Do practice good hand hygiene, clean your mobile phone, tablet, keyboards, steering wheel. Eat well, get plenty of sleep and do some exercise. Think carefully about spending time in crowded places – look after yourself.
Research, if you are self-employed, whether you are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This provides a basic income should you were to become unwell and were unable to work.
And if you run a small business with staff on the payroll, think ahead. Could you pay your team if your business drops off for two, three or four months? Could you still operate if you have staff off sick? Can you cut any costs now or put aside spare funds cover dips over the next few months? Work out your strategy. Make adjustments where necessary and keep them under review.
The next few weeks and months, the combination of small businesses and Covid-19 will undoubtedly create a bumpy ride. But bills and salaries need to be paid, products delivered and customer service maintained. So, whatever the challenge, it is business as usual, as much as is practically possible!