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COVID-19 Update - What should SMEs be thinking and doing now?

Senior Partner David Willis shares his thoughts on the government's push to get business back to work


As the country slowly starts to emerge from lockdown we are all faced with many more questions than answers.

The message to those who can work from home is very clear, continue to work from home and maintain social distancing.

The call to start to return to work however is less clear cut.

The message to construction firms and manufacturers is to return to work where this can be done safely but at the other end of the spectrum, restaurants, pubs and most shops are to remain in lockdown.

Millions of small businesses will sit somewhere between these two options, and will need to decide for themselves what the latest guidance means to them.

Whilst making those decisions, SMEs now need to consider the key issues they will face as they return to “normal” business activities.

People – Some important questions concerning your staff.

How willing and able will your staff be in returning to work?

Public transport issues and childcare problems, (with schools remaining closed), may impact upon your employees ability to return to work.

How will you accommodate a safe working environment once staff have returned to work?

How prepared and equipped are your managers and supervisors to lead their teams safely back to work? Will they need additional training in minimising risk factors and soft people skills?

Communication with staff will be vital to effectively plan your return to work strategy. You should be actively engaging with staff now to understand the issues they will face and to involve them in creating a safe work environment for their return.

Cash flow

Even well established businesses will face cash flow challenges as their business cycle gets back up to speed. Many will need to treat their business like a start-up, possibly for the rest of the year and beyond.

Prepare a cash flow forecast to help predict what additional funding support you may need.

Make use of the Government backed schemes such as the Bounce Back Loan or local authority business grants.

Nurture your existing customers.

Your existing customers deal with you because they trust you and they like the products or services you provide. Keep them informed about your plans.

Speak to them and let them know your return to work plans. Find out what their work return plans are if relevant.

Ask them to pay outstanding invoices, (to help your cash flow), and ask about timescales for future orders.

Contact customers that you had previously lost to competitors. Now is a great opportunity to win these customers back.

Supply Chains

As the country gets back to work companies in your supply chain may experience a spike in demand as everyone races to get back up to speed. Remember the queues at supermarkets as we headed into the pandemic? Spikes in demand will inevitably put pressure on supply chains as those businesses themselves build up their operations once more.

Speak to your supply chain now, find out what their expectations are and ensure that you are ahead of the curve.

Where you anticipate problems seek alternative or additional suppliers now.

Your business will face generic challenges as you get back up to speed but also a raft of challenges that are company specific to your business. If you would benefit from talking through your specific issues we offer a free consultation, online or by phone, to see how we can help.

Call one of our partners directly and confidentially Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm on the following numbers: -

Finance

Mike Duff: 07508 789387

David Willis: 07770 731580

Leadership

Tony Cross: 07713 985738

David Willis: 07770 731580

Strategy/IT

Peter Elliot: 07472 041265

David Butler: 07931 671943

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