Updated: Jun 26
Owning a small business in the current climate has its challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy and there’s considerable uncertainty around the longevity of the outbreak. The UK government has introduced contingency measures but you’re not alone if you’re concerned about the future of your company.
Serenity Law LLP is an innovative virtual law firm, focusing on helping business owners in the UK and around the world. What should small businesses consider when operating during the Coronavirus pandemic?
1. Make your health your top priority –
Whilst you’re likely to want to do anything you can to ensure the survival of your business, your health is paramount. After all, your company relies upon you being physically and mentally well enough to lead from the front.
There are plenty of ways to keep your body and mind healthy throughout the Coronavirus outbreak, although you may like to try:
· Utilising your daily exercise to get some fresh air;
· Planning nutritious meals to minimise unhealthy snacking habits forming;
· Meditating – Apps like Breathe2Relax offer quick, easy breathing techniques to increase inner-peace;
· Avoiding unnecessary risk by adhering to government guidelines.
2. Take the opportunity to spring-clean your finances –
Now’s the perfect time to look at your accounts and identify where you could be saving money. Firstly, check to see if you have any subscriptions that are more of a want than a need. If your subscriptions are on rolling contracts, you’ll usually be able to cancel with immediate effect without any penalty, freeing up cash in the short-term.
Equally, you should identify opportunities to reduce outgoings wherever possible. If your premises are mortgaged or assets financed, speak to your bank or finance provider to request to temporarily freeze your payments or move onto an interest-only repayment plan.
You may also save money by reducing the services your company utilises day to day. Your marketing budgets, for example, can potentially be slashed as if your business is unable to trade, you may not benefit from paid advertisement as you would under normal circumstances.
3. Look after your staff and they’ll look after your customers –
Your staff will arguably always be your greatest asset. If the Coronavirus outbreak has taught the country anything, it’s that we wouldn’t survive without every day people doing their best in extraordinary circumstances.
As much as many staff members would appreciate their employer topping up the 80% furlough scheme payment, a large majority appreciate that this isn’t viable for small business owners. Instead, treat your staff like you’d want your loved ones to be treated by their employer. You could show them that you care by:
· Dropping them a daily text, just to see how they and their families are coping;
· Keeping them in the loop with business updates to ease anxieties;
· Sending them a handwritten card to thank them for their support.
4. Look to the future -
Perhaps, your existing business strategy isn’t going to work during the outbreak, but when you look at the bigger picture, could you make changes to allow you to continue to trade? Your business doesn’t need to be working alongside Vauxhall and Airbus to manufacture ventilators for the NHS to survive the crisis. Examples of small companies thinking on their feet throughout the UK include:
· Pink Street, an estate agency in Portsmouth, have been reported to have completed a sale using only“virtual viewing”. With buyers unable to attend properties for viewings due to the lockdown, Pink Street took the property to them with video footage!
· Omnipresence, a private nursery in Northamptonshire, have extended their opening hours to offer 24/7 care to the children of key workers, providing a much needed service, whilst ensuring continued income;
· Ray’s Ice-cream, a small, independent ice-cream shop in Wiltshire, have introduced a delivery service for the first time, giving people in the local area a contact-free treat during a stressful time, with orders pouring in benefiting the business, too.
5. Remain open and honest with your clients –
Put simply, everyone is in the same boat – We’re all faced with the fear of the unknown and disruption to our lives as we know them. Whether your clients are multi-million-pound corporations, fellow SMEs or individual customers, they will appreciate your honest communication more now than ever.
Try to use this opportunity to think of new ways of staying in touch with your clients, too. Social media offers the perfect platform to keep your business at the forefront of the minds that matter, ensuring your clients are the first to know when you’re open for business again.
6. Identify and repair broken links in your supply chain –
In line with keeping in touch with your clients, communication should also remain open within your supply chain. Start by reviewing the terms and conditions of your agreements at various stages throughout the network. Have any of these agreements been broken already? Are you likely to find it difficult to supply services or goods to your usual standards due to the COVID-19 pandemic? A review and redrafting of your terms and conditions would assist to ensure you are still legally protected over coming weeks.
The sooner you identify any supply chain interruptions, the sooner you can renegotiate your terms and create new agreements with suppliers where necessary. Honesty will ensure your relationships are protected to continue working together once trading restrictions are lifted by the government.
7. Seek support and risk assess your existing agreements –
Whilst the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impact on some businesses, it’s also provided opportunity to safeguard your business from any future disruption. A thorough risk assessment of your existing agreements and relationships is likely to reveal any potential liabilities, allowing you to seek legal support where necessary.
Serenity Law LLP is a commercial law firm offering virtual, cost-effective legal advice and a tailor-made auditing service for commercial documentation. Whether you need support in renegotiating terms of an agreement or management of a customer-supplier dispute, co-founding partners Avinder Laroya and Stanley Beckett are experienced in all areas of commercial law. Learn more about the Serenity Law COVID-19 Resources, including a full documentation audit service.