I don’t think any industry has been spared when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the beauty, hospitality and retail sectors particularly hard hit. We’ve battled our way through very uncertain times, two national lockdowns, furlough and inevitable restructures. As this unprecedented year draws to a close, from my experiences as a business mentor here in Bristol, Bath and Somerset I thought it would be interesting to look at what it has taught the business world
A flourishing business relies on a couple of things – consistency and predictability. Those are definitely not words that you would use to describe 2020! You probably feel entirely demolished by everything this year has thrown at you and your business, but maybe it’s time to pause and think about some of the lessons this situation has taught us, and the skills we’ve developed as a result.
This has been an incredibly tough year and we should be proud of ourselves for what we HAVE achieved. Both as a business mentor myself and also working with local businesses I have seen great learning in skills such as:
- Approaching a problem logically
- Forward planning
- Assessing different options
- Monitoring an ever-changing landscape
- Managing uncertainty for ourselves and our co-workers
- Understanding and implementing the government’s support packages
- Being quick to react and adapt
- Being innovative
- Making new contacts
Flexible does not mean unproductive
Unintentionally, this year has been an experiment for businesses on working times, remote working and productivity. With the widespread adoption of virtual meeting tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, business has largely carried on ‘as usual’ for many sectors.
Studies show that up to 90% of people don’t want to go back to ‘the old normal’ and many see the benefit of less commuting, being able to do school drop-offs and enjoy more time at home with young families.
Whilst I don’t think anyone envisages us working from home all the time, flexible working does allow businesses to review some of their major overheads – for example, office spaces, expense claims and company car benefits. At the same time, if businesses are more open to flexible working, they may well see new CVs landing at their feet from people who previously felt excluded due to personal circumstances.
Adequate insurance cover
Unfortunately, many small businesses had to learn the hard way that their business interruption insurance did not cover losses related to the outbreak.
On a personal level, there is also your life insurance policy to consider. Life insurance for business owners is more than just having a death benefit for your loved ones; there is also an opportunity to insure the business and your employees. If the worst were to happen to one of your employees, how would this affect your business?
Alternative revenue streams
And what’s that age-old saying? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! With everything we have experienced this year, is it time to look at your business model and develop multiple revenue streams to disaster-proof your business? It has been personally very rewarding to see some businesses find new ways to generate income.
At some point, a business will experience challenging years. It could be financially due to the economy, an unexpected event or employees leaving. The list of reasons goes on, which is why a business should always develop a risk management plan. We can’t predict the future and we can’t plan for everything, but it is possible to prepare for potential hardships. If your business doesn’t have a strategy in place, now is as good a time as any to adopt one.
Saving for a rainy day
Fortunately, extensions to the furlough scheme have provided a vast safety net when it came to wages. Still, reduced customer footfall, as well as personal protective and cleaning equipment costs have seriously affected many bottom lines. By its very nature, business is uncertain, and calculating your business’s rainy-day fund is a fine art. Squirrel away too much and you run the risk of missed growth opportunities and stagnation.
Being on top of your finances matters, and every business needs cash in the bank to weather the ups and downs of enterprise. However, don’t put money away and then forget all about it. As your business evolves and grows, revisit your calculations and the amount in the bank.
I hope you have a great Christmas and a prosperous 2021! A new year is dawning, with a much brighter outlook!
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As a business mentor and coach based in Somerset, I support small businesses throughout the South West of England, including those based in Bristol and Bath. I would love to have an initial chat, learn more about you and your business, and see how we could work together. So, give me a call and let’s get started!