We're living in unprecedented times, and with the state of play changing regularly it can be difficult for small business owners to know where they stand. However, there are some quick steps that business owners can take now to protect their business in the long term.
1. Understand your options
The nature of your business could determine the level of disruption you may encounter. For some, this might mean significant disruption or even closure. With this in mind, it’s worth having all the information you can to hand to help you best understand all your options and thinking about those tricky conversations now before it’s too late.
Some of the organisations worth contacting include;
- Your insurer: to discuss what happens if you close your business
- Your bank: to find out about possible finance options
- HMRC: to establish your tax situation, sick pay costs and employment allowance
- Your local authority: to find out about business rates and grants or hardship funds
- Your landlord: to find out if a rent holiday would be possible.
2. Make use of Government grants
The Government recently announced several measures to help small businesses during this difficult time so make sure that you're aware of any that you're eligible for.
The most recent announcements have included;
- Unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period. The Chancellor will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.
- Increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as the Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments
- Giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months
- Providing £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
3. Create a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan can help your business survive and continue running during and after a major disruption. The plan should be comprehensive covering your business processes, essential resources and the impact this could have on your business. Here are the most important things to consider within any plan;
- The key business processes e.g. accounting and HR that your business needs to function
- The impact of the threat you face. You’ll need to consider the worst case scenario possible that your business could face
- The key resources that your business needs including:
- Key staff
- Key external contacts
- Key data, equipment, documents and supplies
- A contingency plan - can you move your location, work remotely or online only? Thinking about possible alternatives will help you put a plan in place should the worst happen.
4. Establish future working practices
If the nature of your business means that you and your employees can work remotely, then you’ll want to make sure that you have the systems in place to make this as easy as possible for all of you. Online tools such as Skype for Business, Slack and Microsoft Teams are some of the applications that can facilitate communication and engagement across the team.
If your business cannot support remote working than you might need to consider other practices to ensure the health and safety of your staff. Being aware of those employees that sit in the ‘at risk’ category and ensuring they're supported is key. In addition, establishing good hygiene practices, limiting the number of staff in at one time and introducing measures such as contactless payments could all help keep your staff and customers/clients safe.
5. Keep up to date with the latest government advice
The advice for businesses is changing all the time, so make sure that you're keeping abreast of the situation as it evolves. This way you’ll be able to prepare and react to any changes as quickly as possible.
As well as the gov.uk which will be regularly updated with the latest news, organisations like the FSB or IOD will be sure to have the latest updates and how they relate to businesses.
Keep checking back on this page too! We’ll be posting about all the latest news from the Government as it relates to COVID-19 so that SMEs across the UK have the information they need to continue to survive and thrive in these changing times.
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This article was first published on the Close Brothers Coronavirus Resource Hub.