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SMEs Face Difficult Decisions as Lockdown Eases

Business owner

Business owners, for the first time in over a year, can enjoy the sense of knowing what’s to come. The government’s announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown gives entrepreneurs a timeline for when they’ll be able to open up again, and when business will return to “normal”.

But for many it’s not that simple. While the majority of small businesses and sole traders now have an idea of when they’ll be back up and running, they now face another challenge: after more than 12 months of limited, or no, activity, how do they get started again?

 

1. Is the price right?

With lockdown forecast to ease throughout spring, some SME owners will be looking to tap into pent-up demand for their goods and services and increase their prices to reflect this. But they face a conundrum, as products priced higher than their perceived value will fail to sell enough volume. And after a year with no custom 38% of small businesses are wary of this, contemplating forgoing even planned annual price hikes this year. 

Considering factors such as brand value, quality, number of competitors and demand can be useful for setting prices when it comes to reopening. It may be possible to release a small quantity at different prices to see how much sells at each price level. It may also be possible to charge different prices to different markets or customers, but remember there are administration costs associated with maintaining multiple price lists.

 

2. Dealing with demand 

One in seven (15%) small business owners are worried that they won’t be able to meet demand when they’re finally able to reopen later this year. After redundancies, limited capital and a general lack of practice after a year of interruptions, the promise of returning to business as usual can raise more questions than it answers when it comes to stocking and staffing businesses effectively for the country’s reopening. 

It’s always worth planning your business on paper so that you can spot any possible mistakes before paying out real money. Doing groundwork ahead of reopening can help anticipate demand and get supply levels right; notifying existing and prospective customers of your plans and researching the market can all help here. 

 

3. Keeping an eye on supply

After a year of limited trade, closed workplaces and restricted travel, supply chains are far from guaranteed. As a result more than a third (36%) of SME owners and sole traders have raised concerns about their supply chain in the wake of Brexit and COVID-19. 

Keeping an eye on government updates and what the latest COVID restrictions may mean for your industry can help to give some foresight and allow small businesses to start planning for the future once again. 

If your business has been affected by Brexit, the first port of call should be the government’s dedicated Brexit hub for business. It starts with a few questions about your company: where you’re based and where and how you do business, along with what sectors you work in. The information is used to tailor results. There are also a number of industry bodies offering specific advice for different sectors, so searching around can help to find the support that’s out there to best equip your business for dealing with changes. 

 

4. Steering the ship 

The last year has been challenging for everyone, whether they own a business or not. But employers face the additional challenge of reintegrating employees who have been out of work, away from the physical workplace, or with changed remits back into pre-COVID ways of working. One in seven (14%) SME leaders are conscious that their staff may be feeling anxious about returning to a physical workplace, and will be navigating the challenges of making sure work spaces comply with government guidelines and keep everyone safe.

But staff morale is also important, especially when going through periods of transition, and communication can have a huge impact on employee engagement and motivation levels. Setting up effective ways of chatting with your team in advance of reopening can give a sense of everyone’s comfort levels and expectations for returning to work to make sure your business is a happy and productive one.  

 

Starling Bank has created a number of business guides, to help small businesses navigate various challenges, from getting started to accessing COVID support. 

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