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Coronavirus diaries: Richard Simms

Now that it’s absolutely acceptable to meet virtually, commitments that would have taken a day of my time are now reduced to an efficient couple of hours. This has given me more time to work with SMBs in difficulty – and at exactly the right time.

We specialise in Business Rescue so, as you can imagine, demand for our expertise has peaked over the last few months, as businesses scramble to adapt their business plans for a very different social and economic epoch. Things might seem bleak for SMBs. But I believe that so many businesses can get through this crisis, armed with the right tools.

At the beginning of the lockdown, and before there was any clear guidance from the government on financial relief, business owners were calling us in a state of shock. 

SMBs in many industries went from performing well to having no income almost overnight. Just as it was unprecedented circumstances for our clients, it presented a completely new set of challenges for us too. But whatever the situation, the goal for us is always to make sure we help an owner find the positive in their business. To take the pressure off a business owner and help them see the wood for the trees.

As government support began to arrive, it gave owners a respite and space to make vital decisions on the future. To guide them through this thought process, the first thing we do is to take an objective look at the business – something many owners can’t do themselves. 

What did the business look like before the Coronavirus pandemic? From this point, we lay out a number of plans to see what their revived and refreshed business might be. Where do they want to be? And most importantly, how do we get there? 

Really our role is to facilitate the thought process. Help our client realise what they can and can’t do. Because of insolvency legislation, the steps they take have to be the right ones. Most recently, we’ve had more cases of business owners coming to us having taken financial relief, such as a Bounce Back Loan, concerned that the way they’ve used it – such as using it to pay off a personal debt – will have a negative consequence. In many cases, we can help them remedy the situation. 

Actually, we’ve had such a variety of questions surrounding business financing, planning and management within the context of the COVID-19 crisis that we recently launched an online hub called businesssupport.co.uk to respond to some of the most common queries, as well as give best practice advice, checklists, case studies and how-to guides. 

We felt it a necessary move because, with everyone sharing their knowledge and skills, UK businesses will have a better opportunity to emerge stronger from this crisis. I believe that what happens next will dictate the business landscape of the future. 

You’ll have seen that there was already a seismic shift happening in some industries.

I’ve personally seen many single-site operations, such as pubs, struggle to survive on tight margins for years, with the majority of the profits going to the breweries and landlords. There now has to be a change in this profit sharing, or we’ll lose many more of these businesses. I’m not trying to place the blame at the door of landlords but it’s likely that a shift in rent values will have to come.

Equally, people who were previously unwilling to shop online have had little choice other than to do so since lockdown. This is going to cause a huge shift in what the High Street looks like. I think well find less choice in the short-term as business owners decide to close their businesses in the wake of coronavirus. 

Covid has, in many cases, accelerated changes that were already coming.

To be successful, people really need to look at their offering and decide how to stand out from the rest. How do they make their business more exciting and interesting to potential customers?

Positively, the current situation has actually turned out to be a transformational time for some of our clients. Hit with such drastic measures, they’ve been forced to assess what it was they want to achieve from their business – and how to go about it. 

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