There has been no shortage of challenges for small businesses in the last eighteen months. It would be easier to list the parts that were not made more difficult by the rolling impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Going back to March 2020, there have been lockdowns that forced business closures.
We put our team members on furlough schemes and waited to see if the government would continue supporting them or whether we would need to make redundancies. We went through reopening’s and subsequent lockdowns, and now that things are looking brighter out there, we all need to remember that we are not out of the woods yet.
There are a number of issues that are ongoing as we head into the second half of this year. There are others that are just starting to rear their heads. If you are looking for the best ways to bolster your business against the challenges that will be rocking the boat in the months to come, here are a few tips to help you move forward with confidence.
Remember That The COVID-19 Challenges Are Not Over
Anyone following the news will have noticed the nerves surrounding the UK government’s decision to roll back the vast majority of its Coronavirus restrictions. There were warnings from scientists across the globe, there were worries from everyone from transport companies to supermarket chiefs, and the polls showed that an awful lot of people felt like they were being too hasty. Now, as daily infection numbers continue to soar, we are seeing what is being referred to as a “pingdemic” as companies and services are short-staffed as a result of people being told to self-isolate.
So, what is the best way to prepare for the fact that your business will continue to face disruption as a result of the pandemic? The first thing to do would be to avoid making any major changes to the way you have been operating that would be difficult to reverse.
Flexibility has been so important throughout the last eighteen months, and it is going to be absolutely vital in the months to come. If your employees have been working remotely, consider whether continuing that makes more sense than rushing them back into the office. If you run a store, keep offering deliveries and click and collect in addition to allowing customers back in.
You should also think carefully about how you can continue to support your staff outside of work hours. The impact of Coronavirus on our mental health is still being felt and now is the not the time to stop giving your team the kind of help that they need. Ensure that you are keeping lines of communication open.
Keep offering flexible working hours if that is something that has been helpful. Above all, it is so important for small businesses to foster a sense of teamwork if they want to survive the hard times. Remind them that you are all in this together.
Have Plans In Place For Unexpected Disruption
There are always going to be issues that you are not expecting. We are not necessarily talking about global pandemics or major political changes here (more on that in just a moment).
One of the most disruptive things that can happen to your business can be a perfectly ordinary disagreement. It does not take much for a difference of opinion to turn into something much more serious. A temporary downturn in supply can lead to serious financial ramifications for your business. Missing a tiny piece of information in a contract can turn into a full-blown lawsuit.
We all start our own businesses hoping for the best, but it is always important to prepare for the worst. Don’t wait until the last minute to get advice. If you start to notice that things are looking like they are going south with a business partner, talk to commercial litigation solicitors who can help. Whether it’s insurance claims, business debt recovery or shareholder disputes, commercial litigation solicitors will be able to tell you the best way to proceed. Ashwood Solicitors can help you resolve a situation quickly and effectively and will avoid an expensive court case where possible.
The Impact Of Brexit Is Still Being Felt
It seems that barely a day goes by without a new wrinkle in Brexit emerging. We have seen the disruption caused by the increased levels of bureaucracy. We have seen the businesses choosing to relocate to the continent and the ongoing uncertainty about what the deal will mean for Northern Ireland.
While some of the issues that impact the fishing industry, for example, won’t necessarily be the ones that impact a start-up digital marketing firm, we all need to be aware that there will be wrinkles that we can’t foresee. One of the biggest recent developments has been the shortage of staff across a wide range of sectors. The hospitality industry has reported they have struggled to find chefs and waiters. For anyone relying on deliveries, the widely reported shortage of HGV drivers is a huge potential speedbump.
So, how can we work with this kind of uncertainty? Well, flexibility will once again be absolutely crucial. Another way to get ahead of issues such as staff shortages is to look at how you can offer training for your staff. Can you offer incentives for staff to develop their skills which could be useful in future? You should also look at how you can support any staff members who do not currently have UK citizenship. Help them to navigate the paperwork required to secure their settlement status.
Be Aware Of Security Issues
One of the most talked about issues during the pandemic has been cybersecurity. When the world locked down, it made sense that there would be people out there looking for ways that they could exploit people. With so many people desperate for information and reassurance, and so many people lacking experience in conducting all of their business online, there were a lot of areas that could be exploited.
However, the numbers both in terms of the number of incidents and the amount of money that has been stolen is truly staggering. As a small business owner, you may not be facing the same kind of ransomware attacks as some of the massive corporations out there, but you still need to be taking care.
Take a good long look at the security measures you currently have in place for your business, as well as your personal assets. If you are managing a team, how confident are you in the security you have for your cloud software? If you are counting on free anti-virus software and common sense, then it may be time for an upgrade. Use a password generator for any business accounts, or personal accounts that you also use for business, and make sure to change them regularly. Two-factor authentication software is a simple but effective way of keeping unwanted people out of any of your accounts. If you are in any doubt about the best security measures to take, talk to an expert. The money you spend shoring up your defences will absolutely be worth it in the months ahead.