Dealing with the impact of Coronavirus/COVID-19 for small businesses.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to be legal advice and I would ask you see further legal and financial advice where necessary. If you are unsure about anything ask for help from another business owner, consultant or coach to talk through your options before you decide.

I have written this based on my own experience and the things I am going to be putting in place with my business. Your business and circumstances are going to be different so some of these things are not going to be right for you but my intention is that it provides you a starting point to help protect your business and any employees.

This article was written on 15th March. The situation is very fluid and changing on an hourly basis. I will update this post as more news comes out and it may cause me to change the advice I am giving.

A good resource is the FSB website: https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/advice-to-small-businesses-and-fsb-members-about-the-novel-coronavirus-covid-19.html

COVID-19 has become a real threat to all businesses in the UK. My intention is not to spread fear or cause panic but as sensible business people we need to face up to the reality that faces us. I am making myself available to any business owners who are concerned and feel they do not have sufficient support. If you need anything or want to talk things through, email me.

Sort out your finances

It is going to be critical to understand the financial position of your business and how long you can survive with little or no income, if that happens. This should be one of your first priorities. The best person to ask is your accountant, they should be able to help you understand the financial health of the your business. I appreciate that dealing with finances can be daunting and overwhelming but it’s the most critical thing you need to get your head round if you haven’t.

The best thing to do is look at your cash flow forecast/statement. If you don’t have one then I would strongly recommend you get one set up. They are actually relatively easy to complete and if you need any help please let me know and I can get you started. This will tell you how much cash you have in the bank and what will impact on that by deducting your financial expenses and expected income and chart over time when your cash balance. It will give you a clear indication of when you will run out of money and what, if any, financial support you will need.

Cut costs where possible

This relates to costs associated with your business that you can survive without. I appreciate some people will think that this is going to compound the problem by causing a ripple affect through the economy. You need to make your own call on this but I would suggest cutting costs where possible to reduce your out goings and save money where possible. Understand what contractual obligations you face for contracts with suppliers and employees.

Lean on your support network

The good news is that the UK is thriving with some very clever business people. We’re all in the same boat, some will be affected more than others and now is the time to ask for help. Speak with your local chamber of commerce or well known business networks, use LinkedIn and other social media networks to ask others for advice or help. You do not have to deal with anything alone.

Speak to your team

If you have employees or contractors or freelancers it would be best to sit down with them as soon as possible and have a meeting to devise a plan on what your next steps are. Come at it from a place of compassion, understanding and support. Find out what everyone is dealing with and what support they need. We need to have open, honest conversations with everyone and be realistic about the potential impact a lock down will have.

Put contingency plans in place

Plan for the worst, hope for the best. There is a lot that is out of our control. All we can do is take charge as quickly as possible of things we can and be realistic about the things we have no control over. Now is not the time for panic.

Put a contingency plan in place for you and your team. If possible and when advised by the UK Government implement a social distancing programme and ask people who can, to work from home. If you have team members that job functions mean they cannot then current advice is to continue on as normal until that advice changes. I would recommend you think about worse case scenario is businesses are forced to close. Get yourself set up as much as you can for this possibility, ask for help doing that, I am available to speak if needed.

Get clear on your legal responsibilities

As employers we all have a duty of care to our team and that means not putting them at risk. Check any employment contracts and staff handbooks to understand what your responsibilities are in terms of sick pay, unpaid leave and lay offs. The UK government has currently said Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is available from day one of sickness for all people who have to self-isolate, irrespective of symptoms. They are going to cover the cost but remember this is currently set at £94.25 a week. This is not going to be enough for everyone to survive on but at the same time you may not be in a position to pay your entire workforce full pay for a few weeks.

You need to understand your employment contracts and what they say, you may offer full pay for a set amount of time. The best course of action is to seek advice from a solicitor or use a legal advice helpline such as the one provided by the FSB. If this is not available then research online from reputable online sources. 

Some online sites regarding what to do from on HR perspective:

Speak to you customers and suppliers

Get on the phone and speak to all your customers. Understand what precautions they are taking and whether they expect any orders or work to stop. Also speak to your suppliers and find out what their intentions are. This is going to require you to have some upfront and frank conversations. I would recommend you come at this from collaborative point of view, it’s very likely they are all going to be struggling and it’s imperative that you see how they can support you and how you can support them. 

Find out what your local council or government are doing in way of support

The government has promised to help small businesses with business interruption loans, providing SSP for people affected by Coronavirus and suspending business rates for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value less than £51,00 for a year. This may change, for the most up to date information  for businesses please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Speak to your bank

At the time of writing the UK Government has pledged to provide a “temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme” for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium-sized businesses. The best point to start with is speak to your bank directly to find out more about this scheme and how it can help you.

There’s also some further information about the loans here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/supporting-business-loans-enterprise-finance-guarantee/

I hope this advise has been helpful. If you think of anything else, want to contribute or disagree with anything please email me and I will update as necessary.

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Why having passion in business in not enough.

About 6 months ago I realised that I has become bored at work. 2019 was an incredibly painful and joyful year. We celebrated 10 years in business at Raise Bakery and the same time my Mum, with whom I had started the business in her kitchen, retired.

Now I guess you may be sitting there thinking, who is this dick that runs a bakery and get bored at work? He makes cake.

Well let me tell you, it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and skipping around eating chocolate and singing songs like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Sure, we’re not selling plumbing equipment (no offense to people that do that), we are selling cake but it struck me that I am living a life many would dream of and I am a miserable git. Those who know me personally will know I am generally an up beat guy, I love to have fun and a laugh and I know how to knuckle down and focus. I could not figure out why I felt so low.

Then one day it hit me. After giving myself a kick up the backside and taking a moment to practice gratitude for my life. I realised I had lost sight of why my business existed. Why did I dragged my arse out of bed every day to turn up to work?

The concept of WHY your business existed was first introduced to me very clearly by Simon Sinek. I’ll let him explain the ins and outs in this video but what I got in that moment was that baking cakes for the sakes of baking cakes was not exciting for me. I need something that was going to light a fire in my belly, something more meaningful, more impactful. So I asked myself the first, and what I believe, one of the most important questions any business owner should ask themselves:

What positive impact can my business have on the world? What difference can I make?

OK, technically that’s two questions….

Why is this important? Because the world of business is evolving. Government’s cannot be relied on alone to make positive changes in this world, it’s up to businesses of all sizes to start to make changes to help us all live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Be it social enterprise, profit for purpose, impact investment, businesses worldwide can have a profound impact on their communities, environment and people. It was in that moment that I saw that my bakery is not just a bakery, it’s an opportunity to make a profound impact in the world. Whether that be creating spaces for people to feel loved, equal or safe or creating sustainable supply chains that give back more than it takes. The possibilities are really endless.

We spent time getting really clear about our vision and mission for Raise Bakery. It had to be created and inspired by my team because everyone in the business has to live and breathe it.

So in conclusion, passion for your business and industry I would say is always very important but so is being up to something big that will make even the smallest positive impact on your community be that your local area or the world!