Navigating COVID-19 as an SME

Navigating COVID-19 as an SME

Whether you run an SME (Small-Medium Size Enterprise), are self-employed, or are trying to find ways of offering more support when it comes to navigating the economic effects of the virus, we’ve collated a few ideas and resources for getting through the visible aspects of the next few months.

Community, Communication and Capital

The government are frequently updating their policy interventions to support businesses, which can be found via the official Coronavirus webpage. For the self-employed, specific financial support may be available under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Eligibility and details are due to be released towards the end of the month, you can stay abreast of such information via the British Business Bank.

As an employer, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £330bn financial package, which includes a capped offer to pay a percentage of people’s wages. The relief will likely be for around 3 months and details can be found on the government’s page for employers. The plan is also set to include a job retention scheme, statutory sick pay, deferring VAT payments, grant funding and business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England. Those in the latter category will automatically be contacted by their local authorities when more information becomes available.

For those fundraising in the lockdown, the focus has become about runway. At this time of uncertainty, everyone is adjusting and adapting as best they can, as new information is released day by day. For a few, it may be business as usual, however it is likely that most investment funds will become more cautious. It is always best to plan for the most difficult situation, and to be looking ahead to at least early 2021. Many VCs are still “open for business” and maintaining ongoing conversations with prospective partners, so don’t be put off by the idea that cheque books have been closed. The central pillar of the moment will be clear and effective communication.

Finding and Revising the Opportunities

Proving you can adapt will gain a lot of faith from investors and team members. The new normal will present some opportunities that businesses need to pivot and leverage to stay relevant. A more insular focus over the next few months will provide the opportunity to revise product, take a pause and re-evaluate away from the constant whir of the treadmill.

Leverage your network. Call key stakeholders and have honest conversations about the next best steps, explain revised plans and strategy and consider what extra support might be available. Both ask and offer advice, help, feedback and guidance during this time. No one knows much more than anyone else as the information constantly changes and updates, the best we can do is share and collaborate, over compete. Possibly one of the best opportunities to come out of a crisis, is the chance to even more clearly demonstrate the best of our human values, as we continually have done in similar situations in the past.

“Well, I’m a scientist, but I’m also a person of faith. And I can’t ever look at something without asking the question of isn’t there a higher power that in some way will help us to be the best version of ourselves that we could be? I thought we would see the equivalent of empty streets in the civic arena, but the amount of civic engagement is greater than I’ve ever seen. But I’m seeing young kids, millennials, who are volunteering to go take groceries to people who are homebound, elderly. I’m seeing an incredible influx of nurses, heroic nurses, who are coming and working many more hours than they worked before, doctors who fearlessly go into the hospital to work. I’ve never seen the kind of volunteerism I’m seeing.

I don’t want to pretend that this is an exercise worth going through in order to get to that state. This is a really unprecedented and difficult time that will test us. When we do get through it, maybe like the Second World War, it will cause us to reexamine what has caused the fractional division we have in this country. The virus is an equal opportunity infector. And it’s probably the way we would be better if we saw ourselves that way, which is much more alike than different.” – Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of the pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus – but first, we need lots more testing.

Although there may be a temporary decrease in demand, customer relationships are more important than ever, with any data being better than no data. As with the race to a vaccine, doing nothing and waiting for a miracle is not an option. Making a few different plans such as one for a normal revenue stream, 15% revenue cut and 30% revenue cut etc. can help to offer and compare different roadmaps, whilst providing the flexibility needed to navigate unclear roads. Being prudent will help you to make adjustments based on how your reality develops against your forecasts.

Facing the Future

Mark Twain was one of the first to claim that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.’ We have faced many similar situations in times gone by, and each time the data shows that we adapt and bounce back faster than the last. However, it should be noted that one of the things we cannot afford to do, is to return to our previous ‘normal’. Such episodes should be pivotal, evolutionary milestones that we are able to adapt and overcome, in both the short and long term.

COVID-19 offers us a taste of the challenges to come in the face of continuing climate change. Start-up hubs like X+Why pride themselves on promoting a new model of capitalism based on the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. Their purpose is to positively contribute to rebuilding the economy on the other side.

‘Tech for good’ undoubtedly will help us to source rapid solutions to some of the current problems the world is facing, as well as managing the tougher periods. COVID-19 may have been the asteroid impact that has accelerated some of the changes we have been heading towards, the key going forwards will be maintaining some of the more positive applications, such as reduced travel and increased remote work, in the longer term.

At a national level we have become more collaborative than ever, as data is shared and manpower is combined in order to overcome the challenges ahead. At the microcosm, the same extends to our communities, and the network of likeminded, soul-driven businesses that have been built. So continue to pay it forward, lend a hand or an ear, share tips, sage the space and stay safe, stay inside, and wash your hands (for 2 minutes every 20 minutes).

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