Accelerate your path to business growth and get your business back on track.
The pandemic has given many businesses a rough time and brought fast-moving, unexpected problems. Many were unprepared and with premises closed and supply chains disrupted had no way to communicate with prospects, or conduct business in the same way they did previously.
With the right strategy and forward thinking we can learn good lessons from the COVID-19 disruption and turn this to our advantage, building resilience in our businesses and reducing the risk of future crises.
In this article we’ll cover a broad range of areas aimed at accelerating your business growth, so grab a drink and a comfy seat and let’s get into it!
Lessons learned – Rebuilding & transforming
COVID-19 has profoundly affected business across every sector and geography. It’s had a huge impact on not only how we purchase, but how we work.
The first thing to accept is that the only thing that is certain about recovery is uncertainty. Business has changed and in some ways, may never return to the way it was before.
The way we buy has changed and we may need to adapt our business model to embrace the changes. Think outside the box? Maybe, but try and think of this another way; there is no box!
While this may sound a little cryptic the underlying message here is that thinking without any constraints whatsoever can bring about some fantastic ideas where anything is possible.
According to recent studies, 44% of people are now more likely to do grocery shopping online as a result of the pandemic.
The number of people who now work from home has more than doubled, according to the Office for National Statistics.
In simple terms, getting back up and running requires more than just business as usual. It’s a careful balancing act between transitioning safely into a new working world, and taking steps to engage in the transformation of working conditions and practices that COVID-19 has created.
Clarity in Business
One thing that every small business desires is clarity in their business. Most businesses want a clear goal and a clear path to get there.
Why are you doing this? Where are you going? How are you going to get there?
Knowing where your business is headed and how you are going to get there gives you strategic clarity. This helps you focus your time, resources and energy and avoids distraction. It also helps you clarify progress and allows you to measure your success.
Don’t forget to ask yourself why you are doing this. This is the most important aspect as it helps create happiness and promotes passion in your work. It’s your story and it’s much more than a mission statement. If whatever you are doing does not align with the why, then why are you doing it?
If enthusiasm and passion are present, people tend to be more resilient when they encounter obstacles, have more positive outlooks and are able to overcome difficulty through problem solving.
Investing in a financial system
For effective planning you need to have a good insight into your businesses and this starts with your financial system. The key to financial planning and forecasting is having a comprehensive financial system.
A financial management system enables your business to improve certainty and insight thanks to its data handling capabilities. Higher quality, reliable and verifiable data can be organised so as to enable much faster and more accurate decision making.
During the pandemic, many businesses moved to selling online to keep serving their customers which means new data streams to manage. Understanding where sales are coming from is key and provides great insight into your revenue streams, not to mention expense tracking and invoicing.
Having a good grasp of your business’s cash flow is a critical part of small business survival. A good financial system helps you stabilise your cash flow and gives you a faster way to get paid and an easier way to pay your bills.
If you still have an out of date system or are working from spreadsheets and paper then now is the time to consider the transition. Solutions such as Xero (for example), can integrate directly with your bank accounts and even your website to dramatically speed up your admin.
The traditional advice of having 3-6 months of cash reserves seems like a relic from another time. Your new goal should be to have enough cash to sustain core operations for at least one year, and build it into your business plan.
While this may not be possible for everyone, the take away point here is that we need to be able to reduce risk as much as possible and cash flow is paramount.
You’ll also need to consider if you’ll have enough cash flow to help you achieve your goals. If not, you may need to look at ways to optimise working capital.
HMRC payment plans
One way to help with cash reserves is to consider payment plans with the HMRC for outstanding VAT, PAYE, Self Assessment and Corporation Tax.
Rather than pay in one lump sum, you can spread the cost over time, freeing up your cash to help invest in growth and sustaining your business operations.
Business recovery loans
If cash flow is super tight you may not be able to fund your growth and recovery. The good news is that there is help available that supports access to finance for UK businesses as they grow and recover from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Recovery Loan Scheme is currently open to businesses of any size to support them to access loans and other kinds of finance so they can recover after the pandemic and transition period.
Up to £10 million is available per business. The actual amount offered and the terms are at the discretion of participating lenders.
The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender. As the borrower, you are always 100% liable for the debt.
Loans are available through a network of accredited lenders, listed on the British Business Bank’s website.
You can find a lender here.
You may have had to let some staff go at the end of the Furlough Scheme and be considering recruiting to help grow your business.
One consideration is whether your new employees should be allowed to work remotely. Many businesses have found that remote working has brought out the best in their employees. This has led to the demand to go back to the office to be incredibly low.
The positives have meant that many employees are saving on the costs of their commute and have a better work-life balance, not to mention they don’t have to worry about being potentially exposed to the virus.
There are negatives however and these are linked to poor mental health as well as a lack of motivation. It also often proves more difficult to train junior employees when remote working Although there are negatives associated with remote working, many companies are looking at ways in which they can support this option.
Whether it’s ensuring that employees are equipped to work from home by sending them the correct technology, or companies purchasing meeting rooms or hot desk space for those who are struggling, the consensus is that remote working is here to stay.
To help employers take on new staff, the government has introduced some incentives for employing apprentices.
You may still have time to apply for a payment of £3,000 for apprentices with an employment start date from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021 – Applications close on 30 November 2021.
From 11 January 2022, you will be able to apply for a payment of £3,000 for apprentices with an employment start date from 1 October 2021 to 31 January 2022. Applications close on 15 May 2022.
The payment is different to apprenticeship levy funds, so you can spend it on anything to support your organisation’s costs. For example, on uniforms, your apprentice’s travel or their salary. You do not have to pay it back.
The payment is in addition to the existing £1,000 an employer will already get for taking on an apprentice who is either:
- Aged 16 to 18 years old.
- Under 25 and has an education, health and care plan or has been in the care of their local authority.
To start the application process click here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/incentive-payments-for-hiring-a-new-apprentice
During the lockdown it was hard for many businesses to communicate effectively with customers.
Many prospective customers will naturally take to the web to search for solutions for their problems and even more did during lockdown. Having a comprehensive web presence is key to engaging with your customers.
Why clarity of communication is important
Being clear in what you say sounds obvious but businesses make common mistakes that put prospects off before they engage. Here’s a list of common problems.
- Using complex language to explain things or being overly formal.
- Using technical jargon your customers won’t understand or don’t need to know.
- Talking about features and specifications of products/services rather than the problems they solve.
- Making the content all about you, when it should be about them.
- Not keeping people informed about how you are operating during the pandemic, how/if you are conducting business and how you are keeping visitors safe.
- Not telling prospects what action to take next.
- Not showcasing how you or your products have solved problems for others.
- Not telling customers what to do if they have a problem.
Being clear in your communication avoids confusion, educates, entertains and inspires. It brings down barriers that can stop prospects engaging.
Being closest or cheapest are great reasons for prospects to choose you but there are other reasons people decide to transact with you. When your online presence is working well and your communication is clear, you’ll likely hear similar feedback listed below.
I called you because…
- Your website was better looking and you looked more approachable than the competition.
- It was easier to understand than the rest.
- My problems aligned with the same ones you solved for another company.
- It was easy and clear who to contact for the specific services I needed.
- I liked your article about X.
- You seemed to be more relevant and well up to date on the latest news.
- You clearly explained how you were different from other companies.
- I learned something from you and I liked it.
- I could see how you effectively deal with things when they go wrong.
- I saw how friendly you were with other customers on social media.
In addition, what you don’t say can raise barriers. If your prospects cannot find what they are looking for, they may think you are hiding something.
The bottom line is that you should treat your website like an employee. It should work hard 24/7 while you are sleeping and be relevant as to why your audience comes to you. Without these things, your communication falls flat.
We all have new challenges ahead to emerge from the pandemic and increase our business growth. We may need to implement some changes, learn, rebuild and transform our offerings to embrace the post covid world.
The first step is to try and build some clarity so we have clear goals ahead so we know where to focus our energy. Having the right financial systems in place gives us a solid backbone to work with and gives us the insight to make better decisions and plan accordingly.
Maximising our cash flow and taking advantage of HMRC assistance can help us recover from the pandemic more quickly and build better resilience into our businesses.
Improving our communication and online presence gives us a better proposition to help deal with prospects at arm’s length but bring them closer when they decide to engage.
Should similar situations arise, we are better prepared to continue trading and communicate with prospects.
If you need some help to bring more clarity into your business, get in touch. We can help you find your perspective and specific purpose so your business can thrive.