It has certainly not been an easy time for small businesses in the UK over the last year, with both the pandemic and Brexit creating enormous challenges for business owners. While 2021 should be a better year for businesses, there will still be challenges ahead as the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt even once the threat of the virus has passed. With this in mind, there are a few tips for small business owners in 2021 which will hopefully help them to get back on track, find success, and have a productive year. Read on for a few helpful tips.
Consider an online MBA
For those that do not have one already, an online MBA is a smart idea this year, particularly if a business is quieter than normal at the moment. An online MBA will be useful because it will teach you to develop successful modern-day strategies, lead, and overcome business problems, and there certainly are many potential issues for businesses right now which an online MBA could help with. An online MBA can also be studied entirely online and with great flexibility, so it should be easy to work into your schedule, especially if you are working remotely right now. No matter if you have a job, are juggling looking after your children, and whatever else life throws at you. Online study can be done at your own pace in your own time. Essentially, an online MBA will equip you with the knowledge and confidence that you need to succeed now and in the future.
Make working from homework for your business
Leading on from this point, many companies are looking to continue with working from homeonce the pandemic ends, at least on a part-time basis, because it can benefit both the business and employees. This is certainly worth considering, but you need to make sure that you know how to get the most out of a remote team, have access to the best tools and equipment and ensure that all staff is fully supported for this to work. Keep in mind that not everyone has a suitable space for a home office, so you may need to think about supporting these staff in the future.
Maintain close communication with employees
It is always important to communicate effectively with staff, but especially during turbulent times like these and if you have people working from home. It is easy for communication to breakdown when you are not seeing employees each day and sharing an experience at work, so you need to make sure that it is easy for people to stay in touch with communication platforms and video meetings. Isolation and cabin fever can be major issues for people when working remotely, especially when there are still restrictions in place, so you will want to prevent this at all costs and try to maintain a team-based mentality, so regular meetings, positive feedback, and making yourself available for support is key.
Plan for different outcomes
It is also important to be well-prepared in times like these where the situation is fast changing. There is a roadmap for a return to normality that businesses should be using as a guide, but this pandemic has taught us that things can change quickly, so you need to consider different outcomes and the best course of action. As a small business, you should also keep up to date with what support is available to you and take advantage of schemes like a furlough to manage during this difficult period. On top of this, you need to consider how Brexit will affect your company and find the best ways to manage these challenges, and an online MBA will certainly come in useful here.
Following this, now is also the time for entrepreneurial-spirit and innovation. Throughout history, the companies that have found continued success have been the ones that have been able to adapt and innovate based on what is happening around them, and now is certainly the time for this. While there are new challenges and a great deal of uncertainty, this will inevitably present new opportunities, so you should use what you learn on an online MBA as well as engage with stakeholders to identify ways in which you could find new levels of success in the current climate whether this is identifying new revenue models, making positive changes to the operation of targeting entirely new markets.
Develop your team
It is always a good idea to develop your team to improve their performance, take the company forward and keep staff happy. If things are a little bit quieter than normal right now, you could focus on staff training, which could even include getting promising staff to take an online MBA to upskill your workforce and work together to develop the best strategies to manage over the coming months.
Establish new goals
Every business will have been impacted by the pandemic, which means that the goals and plans that companies previously had may now be unachievable. This is why you need to establish new goals for your company in the short, medium, and long-term. This can be a good opportunity to sit down and think about the future and what you want for the business, but of course, you will need to be realistic as although there are new opportunities, the impact of Brexit and the pandemic will be felt throughout the economy.
Conduct new market research
The landscape will be changed for good, and it will not be business as usual once the pandemic ends, which is why small business owners must conduct new market research. In particular, you will want to focus on your target customer because consumer trends, needs, and behaviours will be heavily impacted and different from how they were before. This means that you should engage with your target customer, with surveys being a smart way to gain insight and learn about how they are feeling moving out of the pandemic. You should also spend time researching your competitors to see how they have managed, what has changed, and if there are any new gaps in the market to fill.
It has been easy for small businesses to disappear from view during the lockdown, but it can be a long climb back to being visible, which is why you need to try to maintain visibility even if you are limited at the moment. This could involve posting content on social media, engaging with followers online, and using digital marketing to create a stronger online presence. Even if there is not much that you can do now, it is important to maintain close communication with your customers to stick in their minds and forge strong connections. In times like these, it is possible to forge stronger connections, especially if you can humanize the brand and show that you care about your customers. Keep in mind that consumers are likely to be cautious and have questions about using your business during this time, so you need to make sure that you are easy to reach too.
Upgrade your tech
Now could be a good time to upgrade your business tech, especially if you are working remotely, as many tools and software systems can be helpful. There are all kinds of different tech that a business could utilise in 2021, such as:
- Cloud computing
- AR & VR
- Process automation
- Data analytics
- Internet of Things
Keep your costs down
Cash flow is a key issue for many small businesses right now. In addition to taking advantage of any available government schemes, it is also worthwhile looking to reduce your costs if possible, which can make a big difference. You always need to be careful when making any kind of change, though, as you do not want to make a change that negatively affects the business and will ultimately damage the bottom line.
Be wary of cybercrime
As if the pandemic has not created enough challenges for small businesses in the UK, there has also been a rise in cybercrime due to the pandemic. This is because so much of the workforce is working remotely, creating new vulnerabilities, and making it easier for cybercriminals. Additionally, there has been a spate of new phishing scams as brands are having to communicate so much with their customers, and there is so much uncertainty in the air. This is why you need to make cybersecurity a priority right now, which will involve making sure that you have vigorous protection in place and making sure that staff knows how to work safely remotely and protect important data.
Make sure you have adequate insurance
The pandemic has created quite the scare in the business world, and it has been shocking to see so many companies that were thriving beforehand now struggling heavily or even boarded up. There are many different threats to a business, and it is clear that the unexpected can happen, which is why it is important to make sure that you have adequate protection in place. The type of insurance you need will depend on the type of business you run, but there are different types available, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
Embrace community engagement
Community engagement has always been worthwhile as a business to raise your profile, attract new customers, and form strong relationships. Community engagement is something that every business owner should consider moving forward, especially when you consider that this whole experience has highlighted the importance of self-sacrifice and doing what you can to help others. There are many ways that you could engage with the community moving out of the pandemic, including volunteering, raising money, partnering with local businesses, and hosting events.
Stick to your core values
While it is certainly important to adapt and innovate, you always need to be careful when you do this as you could risk alienating your existing customer base and going against what brought you success in the first place. This is why it is so important to keep your core values in mind when making any kind of change, which will help keep your existing customers and stakeholders happy while also branching out and trying new things.
Businesses will be desperate to get back to normal and want to do all they can to succeed, but you must also be careful. It could be very easy to burnout after such a stressful and challenging period, which is why you need to know the signs of burnout and look out for these. It is important to make sure that you are taking time off, leading a healthy lifestyle, and socializing – everyone needs to take the time to enjoy themselves and see friends and family when it is safe to do so.
Look out for your team
Leading on from this point, you also need to look out for your team. Everyone has suffered in one way or another due to the pandemic, and the impact that this will have on mental health will continue to be felt after restrictions have been lifted. This is why you need to keep an eye out for your team and do all that you can to support them after what has been such a difficult time for everyone. They may be reluctant to come forward, and it can be hard to tell when people are struggling (especially if working remotely), which is why you might find it helpful to check in from time to time and encourage them to open up.
Hopefully, this post’s tips will be useful for business owners and provide some inspiration for the year ahead and beyond. 2021 will be a unique and unusual year for businesses and, although there will certainly be challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic, and it could be a fresh start for small companies that allow them to compete at a higher level and find new levels of success.