We have just come through probably the toughest 18-months any of us have experienced in our business lives.
We have prepared this helpful guide to focus SMEs on the top 20 things they need to focus on to build a solid platform to help them with the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Focusing on the 3 key areas of Cash, People and Customers, this handy quick reference guide will help SMEs prioritise the actions they need to take.
You need to understand your financial position before you can make the right decisions in other areas. Conduct a review of your finances – key areas to focus on are:
- Cashflow – do you have sufficient cash in the bank to enable you to continue to operate for the next 3, 6 and 12 months?
- Forecasting – what do the finances for your business look like in the short and medium term? Your forecast will inform you and enable you to make the right decisions to keep your business moving. Preparing longer-term cashflow forecasts will help you understand what additional funding requirements you may need.
- Collect the cash you are owed. Speak to customers that owe you cash and proactively work with them to secure payments. Show empathy to those that are struggling and work with them to agree a payment schedule.
- If you owe cash to suppliers or others speak to them and agree a payment plan that works for you both.
- Do you need to access additional cash? If so, look at your options carefully and consider the impact of any additional borrowing.
- Make the most of tax deferrals, grants and other financial support that may be available to you.
- Review and refine your pricing and payment terms. How your customers pay you may need to change to help them and/or to help you. Think about the best way you can get paid in a way that is fair and appropriate for your customers.
Your priority should be to look after your people. Once you know your financial position, you will know whether you need to reduce, increase or maintain your headcount and you can plan accordingly. Key things you need to bear in mind include ensuring the safety of your people, keeping them informed and supporting them.
- Are you bringing everyone back from furlough? Consider your legal and financial obligations. Think about when and how you will bring them back to the workplace.
- Do you need to make some job roles redundant? This needs to be handled carefully and appropriately. You must follow the correct protocols.
- Workplaces – whether this is their home or a workplace, ensure they have the tools to do their jobs – safely & securely.
Ensure your workplace meets social distancing and hygiene requirements and is a safe environment for your staff as well as visitors.
- Conduct regular H&S and wellbeing reviews. Record the outcomes and act on them.
- Communication is key. Ensure you are communicating regularly and appropriately with all staff – whether they are at home, on furlough or in the workplace.
- Are your managers equipped to support their teams? Do they know how to handle the wellbeing aspects of their people?
- Technology – have your people got the right technology and support to do their jobs? This is especially critical for workers working from home or remotely or for services affected by the social distancing requirements where you may need to engage with new technology as part of service delivery.
Clearly your customers are vital to your business. Customers needs and expectations have changed over these past 18-months so don’t assume it’s ‘business as usual’. You need to be talking to them and identifying the ways you can help them. Make sure your customers feel supported and cared for, know how to contact you and know how you can help them.
- Consider how the customer experience has been affected as a result of changes? Making appointments, access to your premises or changes to being able to book appointments will all affect your customers.
- Don’t assume your customers know how you can help them and how they can buy from you. Contact them and let them know. Use this opportunity to re-engage with customers and reassure them. Remind them of how to contact you and what to expect from you (plus how you can help them).
- Make sure you can deliver. If you are reliant on others e.g. suppliers or transportation, check your supply chain and secure what you need to ensure you can deliver for your customers.
- What do your customers need and want? Identify the key things that your customers need from you right now. This may have changed from ‘normal times’.
- Review and refine your products and services. We are in a new world. What worked before may not now. Be helpful to your customers by thinking about the alternative ways you can make life easier for them. Review packages, delivery options, promotion. Be creative and find ways to make your products and services accessible and attractive.
- Get in touch with your existing customers. Call them and/or write to them. Post messages on social channels. Be highly visible with relevant and helpful information and content. Your existing customers already know, like and trust you. Look after them as a priority.
The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Author and other professionals may express different views. They may not be the views of Lambert Chapman LLP. The material in the article cannot and should not be considered as exhaustive. Professional advice should be sought in connection with any of the issues contained in the article and the implementation of any actions.