Covid-19 will radically alter the business landscape we know today. Overnight, changes to the way we live our lives mean that companies must adapt within a matter of weeks and months to survive. The impact will be lasting, but there are opportunities out there.
We spoke with business experts Ian Penrose, portfolio PLC and private company Non-Exec Director, and Oliver Wyncoll, Partner at Bridges Fund Management about their advice for SMEs in both surviving and thriving through this period.
1. Look after your people. This is not just a case of businesses doing the right thing; caring for your people will pay dividends in the future. Employees who feel valued will go the extra mile for their employers and, when you need agility and flexibility in your workforce, this will be key. Aside from assessing and mitigating risks, ensure you are checking on emotional welfare. Now more than ever, businesses need human and compassionate leadership.
2. Focus on cash. Scrutinise your cash flow forecast. Is it accurate, robust and useful? Talk to customer and suppliers about payment terms. Talk to your banks about what facilities are available. The government is providing unprecedented levels of financial aid to support businesses, make sure you are aware of the grant schemes, the Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
3. Plan for the short, medium and long term. It’s natural to think tactically, focusing on the here and now, but take some time to think about what your customers need in the future. Will they still behave in the same way and is your business model sustainable, or is now a great time to pivot to a new strategy? This may mean making some tough decisions early on, but could lead to some unexpected positive outcomes.
There is no doubt we face challenging times ahead. In times of crisis, people will remember how you made them feel, and this might be a major differentiator for you as a business, if handled well. Does this situation present an opportunity to set you apart, heal rifts between competing divisions, maybe even change perception of your employer brand in the market?
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