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The Covid-19 crisis is still having a devastating impact in terms of economic disruption and lives lost and many are looking forward to returning to ‘normal’, expecting and hoping to get back to ‘business-as-usual’. But was yesterday’s normal really that great, or should we be striving to be better? It’s moments of radical disruption that provide unparalleled opportunity to reflect, reimagine, readjust and rebuild stronger.

As a small business, you might be wondering what impact you can have on the UK economy and our country’s future. You might be able to make small changes, but what’s the point? Your changes won’t make a difference, will they? That’s where you’re wrong.

SMEs make up 99.9% of all businesses in the UK, 96% of which are micro-businesses, employing no more than 10 people. They contribute 52% of annual turnover to the UK economy, and make up 60% of total private sector jobs. Each of these businesses has customers and many have suppliers, employees, partners, sub-contractors and other stakeholders. Each of these individuals has their own network of family, friends, colleagues and other connections. Now reimagine what a small change could make to the UK if every small business were to make one.

There are some key global and local challenges that every business should be looking to help tackle, many of which have been exacerbated or highlighted by Covid-19.

Tackling the Skills and Productivity Crises

The UK faces a huge crisis, with the development of workplace skills failing to keep pace with the rapid digitalisation and automation of industries. This, alongside increased redundancy rates and decreased graduate opportunities due to the economic impact of Covid-19, has created a real problem for the UK. The country has also been experiencing a slump in labour productivity growth since the 2008 economic crisis, which will be impacted once again by the pandemic. This is partially due to high numbers of low skilled workers and the decline of highly productive industries and businesses.

What can I do?

As a small business, you could consider taking on interns, short-term placement students from colleges and universities and help them become more competitive in the job market. You could upskill employees to ensure their positions are future-proofed and that your business and your local economy is more resilient (various funded programmes are available for this – Accelerate C & W). Check out our blog on Tackling the UK’s Skills Challenges.

In addition, you could look to embrace new technologies and ways of working that will increase the efficiency of your workforce and business as a whole.

The pandemic, whilst presenting one of the greatest challenges of our time, has also presented the greatest opportunity in generations. A chance to challenge the status quo ‘business as usual’ mantra that has dominated our economy since the industrial revolution. It has proved to businesses and individuals that it’s possible to take drastic action for the environment and run a successful business.

Take this opportunity to reassess every aspect of your business model and processes. Keep the environment at the forefront of your mind throughout your working week to help identify changes, however small, that can be made. Embracing environmental sustainability as a core part of your business strategy could help you to build a strong brand reputation, win work and save money. To find out more about the changes you could make read our Green Economy blog post.

Improving the Resilience of Small Business

In many cases, small businesses are able to adapt more quickly and be more resilient to change due to their flatter structures. The importance of SMEs to the UK economy is likely to increase as larger corporations go into administration and more individuals decide to start their own business. However, small businesses are also very susceptible to failure if the right resources are not available, and with the impact of Covid-19 it has been estimated that 600,000 SMEs could collapse in 2020.

What can I do?

Support fellow UK small business owners by actively seeking them out as suppliers and partners. Tell your friends, family and colleagues about your favourite small businesses and follow, like and share their posts on social media. If you have the time to spare, you could even offer to mentor a less established business to support them with their growth. You may find that this even helps you reframe your own business ideas.

Make sure to revisit your own business model regularly and adjust it to consider changing demands and future trends. Be prepared for further pandemics and economic changes and have a flexible model, for example a business that can be run fully remotely at short notice if needed. The impact of the furlough scheme on our economy has been drastic, so aim to create a plan that continues to produce enough revenue to keep staff working. This may involve much more flexible job descriptions than is traditionally seen.

By Bryony Robertson
Business Development Manager