Updated 23 April 2020
As much of the UK goes into quarantine to help stop COVID-19, your business may be feeling the pinch. If your customers are staying away and the bills still need paying, what can you do to help your business through these tough times? Article by Nick Green.
For once, we really are all in this together. The coronavirus crisis is forcing millions of Brits into self-isolation at home, and many of the businesses who would normally enjoy their custom are suffering as a result. There are some winners – supermarkets, soap manufacturers and toilet paper makers among them – but services industries in particular are suffering. Restaurants, bars, gyms, hairdressers, cinemas and theatres, taxi firms, and anything else that involves people mingling, are facing everything from a severely reduced service to total shutdown for at least the near future. This in turn means that the suppliers of those businesses will take a similar hit.
Wi-Fi provider Purple has tracked the impact of the coronavirus on businesses across Europe and in the UK. The past week has seen the UK’s retail footfall drop by 45 per cent, while restaurant usage is down by 68 per cent. Retail footfall in Europe fell by a massive 85 per cent over a 10-day period.
It is hoped that these measures, though drastic, will be short-lived if they help to slow the spread of the virus. If your business is among those affected, the key thing is not to panic. With many thousands of others in the same predicament, this isn’t the same as facing a business crisis alone. The government is promising an unprecedented level of financial support, and there is also plenty that you can do to ride out the crisis successfully with your business intact.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package of measures in the Budget to help businesses through the coronavirus slump, and more clarity on those has emerged since then. The key areas of aid include:
The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales are matching these plans.
The CBILS (initially interest-free loans to small businesses) will be made available through individual banks, rather than via the British Business Bank. The BBB suggests that businesses approach more than one participating lender, and expects the loans to become available from this week. Currently details of which banks will be participating are not available.
If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure industry, you are potentially eligible for a £25,000 cash grant. Details of how this can be claimed have not yet been revealed, but expect an announcement before the end of March.
The smallest businesses – those that qualify for Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) or Rural Rate Relief – will be able to get a £10,000 cash grant. You don’t have to do anything to apply for this, as your local authority will contact you at some point in April. If you haven’t heard anything by late April, it may be worth getting in touch with them yourself.
If ever you prided yourself on your creativity, now is the time to let it shine. Rack your brains for every way that you could deliver your business while minimising customer contact. Solutions might include:
One thing all businesses can do is expand their social media presence. This is where your customers are now. Engage with them, remind them you are there, and work together to find out if there is a way you can still serve them. Your customers have never been more ready to adapt their own behaviour – so what can you do to meet them halfway?
Most importantly, communicate clearly and regularly with your customers so that they know exactly what you are doing during this crisis, and how you are safeguarding their health if you do happen to come into close proximity.
The watchword at the moment must be ‘survival’ rather than growth. Don’t feel like a failure if you have to put your ambitious plans on hold. Many businesses will fare best by entering a kind of ‘safe mode’ where they aim to make just enough to keep ticking over, while reducing overheads as much as possible.
One of the biggest dangers to your business may be the impact on morale – both your own and that of your employees. As the boss, you may feel a wide range of negative emotions: anxiety and uncertainty, and perhaps anger that your business has suffered this knockback through no fault of your own. Similarly, your employees may be worried about the security of their own positions, and frustrated that so much of their hard work might now seem ‘wasted’.
All of this can make it harder to keep working steadily in the way you need to get through the crisis. To keep motivated, follow a few simple guidelines.
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