Lockdown easing: Help your small business bounce back

It’s the moment businesses up and down the country have been waiting for. In line with the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, the 17th May saw the UK enter Step 3, which means that all businesses (bar the highest risk sectors) have finally been able to open.

Now that the easing of restrictions are actually here, it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed. With nothing set in stone and ambiguity in the air, this period of returning to normality will prove extremely important to SMEs.

In order to kick-start your business’s bounce back, preparation is key.

Follow the Government rules and restrictions

Under the new restrictions, indoor hospitality venues, entertainment and visitor attractions are able to reopen. The same goes for indoor sports and leisure facilities, which are allowed to offer group exercise classes, but should avoid sports where contact is included.

All businesses reopening must follow the social contact limits, meaning that visitors and attendees can only gather:

  • In groups of up to 6 people or larger groups of no more than 2 households indoors

  • In groups of up to 30 people outdoors

HMRC states that visitors and attendees should not interact with anyone outside of their own group and keep a 2-metre distance where possible, or a 1-metre distance when taking extra precautions such as wearing face masks.

Working from home should be continued if it is feasible and businesses should do their best to make sure that their workplaces are Covid-secure.

Find out more information about the latest restrictions and what they mean for your business.

Utilise Government financial support

HMRC is still offering a variety of financial support schemes to UK businesses impacted by the Coronavirus. In order to find out what support your business is entitled to, use the support finder and answer a range of questions about your firm. Some of the remaining schemes include:

VAT deferral new payment scheme

If you weren’t able to pay deferred VAT in full by 31st March, you can join the VAT deferral new payment scheme by 21st June 2021. This allows you to:

  • Pay deferred VAT in instalments, interest free

  • Choose how many of instalments you would like to pay (between 2 and 11 instalments depending on when you sign up

The Recovery Loan Scheme

The Recovery Loan Scheme has been offering ongoing support to businesses affected by the pandemic through business loans, overdrafts, invoice and asset finance. Businesses can apply for funding between £25,001 and £10 million.

Working with a network of accredited lenders, the Government guarantees 80% of the finance but your business is liable for 100% of debt. In order to apply, your business:

  • Must be trading in the UK

  • Should be able to evidence that it has been adversely impacted by the pandemic

  • Cannot be in collective insolvency proceedings

The scheme has been extended and is now open until 31st December 2021.

Coronavirus Restart Grant scheme

If your business is in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors, it could be eligible for a one-off grant to help it reopen safely as the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

This grant offers up to £6,000 for businesses in the retail sector and £18,000 in the other industries listed.

If interested, you should apply for a grant through your local council’s website. Your local council will then use their discretion to determine whether your business meets the requirements. Businesses that apply should be:

  • Based in England

  • Rate-paying

  • In one of the eligible sectors

  • Trading on 1st April 2021

If your business is not covered by the grant schemes listed, it may qualify for funding through the Coronavirus Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG). The grants have been set up to help firms that have been severely impacted by Covid restrictions.

Focus on customer loyalty

Your customers and clients are one of the most important aspects of your business. According to Gartner Group, 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.

If your customer base has dipped over the course of the pandemic, it’s important to take care of your remaining customers and show that you appreciate their loyalty. As well as communicating this in your e-marketing, you can take your gratitude one step further by offering discounts, reward programmes and social media shoutouts.

Customers also want to know that your business is putting their needs first, and asking for feedback through customer satisfaction surveys or reviews can be a great way of retaining customers as your business adjusts to the new restrictions.

In order to boost your customer base, you can encourage your existing clients to spread the word about your business by offering referral programmes or competitions on social media.

Market your business effectively

Make sure that your digital channels, including your website and social media accounts, are properly optimised and up to date on need-to-know information. Google My Business should reflect accurate opening hours and make it as easy as possible for people to get details about your company offerings.

It’s also important to have a powerful social media strategy in place. This can help to spread the word and create excitement in line with the lifting of restrictions. The aim is to assure both your existing and potential customers that your business is more ready than ever to provide its products or services.

Adopting digital

When marketing your business, make sure that you have adopted digital or are accelerating your plans to do so. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of being able to adapt to new circumstances at the drop of the hat.

Depending on your business’s industry, it may be a good idea to make sure you’re ready to launch e-commerce offerings in the event restrictions change again.

Keep on top of cash flow

Despite lockdown easing, you should be prepared for potential cash flow issues that lie ahead. For businesses that have experienced cash flow depletion, the first few months of eased restrictions may be challenging.

It’s important not to get carried away in the hustle and bustle of reopening, and keep a close eye on the money entering and leaving your business.

One way around cash flow issues may be the Government support schemes, however if your business has already taken on debt, make sure that this gets cleared before you opt for more finance.

As the easing of restrictions brings a fresh start for your business, update your invoice payment terms to ensure you receive prompt payment. Delayed payments continue to pose a major threat to business survival, so you should take the appropriate steps to make sure your business gets paid on time.

If your business experiences lengthy payment terms, or struggles with cash flow dips, you could consider invoice finance as a temporary, or ongoing solution. Less risky than taking on loan repayments, invoice finance lets you sell customer payments in advance to a third-party invoice finance platform.

Penny offers invoice finance to small businesses, startups and freelancers across the UK. For a small fee, businesses can receive the total amount of money they’re owed in just 24 hours. Find out more about how Penny can accelerate your invoice income.

Maintain an open mind and be ready to adapt

This is an exciting time for small businesses in the UK. After what’s been a long and challenging period, lockdown easing signals opportunity for growth.

Stay positive, be flexible and keep an open mind to the direction your firm needs to move in in order to adapt to the new restrictions. If you do all that, your business is sure to successfully bounce back.

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