“As we come to the end of 2021 and look back at the year that was, it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin. What’s for sure, as we fast approach the second anniversary of Covid-19, being part of our lives, is that SMEs have yet again had to navigate a relentless succession of catastrophic events throughout the year.
In the week before Christmas, founders in many sectors, including hospitality and leisure, are waiting with baited breath for greater clarity from the Government about how they will be supported if further restrictions are brought in. Rishi Sunak has announced £1bn of funding, but with the impact of the Omicron variant still very much unclear, and absolutely no certainty about whether we will be locked down again any time soon, small businesses are rightly questioning whether this is really enough? How can a figure be chosen without knowledge about the extent of support that will be required or, at the very least, greater transparency about what restrictions will be put into place and when that could happen?
During the pandemic, one thing that has been significantly amplified is the real need for collaboration and support between SMEs. Collaboration over competition is a term often banded about on social media and there is a truth in that there is room for all businesses to grow and thrive with the help of one another. With so many businesses forced into remote working, connection has never been more important.
This year, I re-acquired and re-launched UK Business Forums (UKBF), a platform I set up over 18 years ago when I started my first business and desperately wanted someone to bounce ideas around with. I stumbled over questions that I knew other business owners who had been in my position before would be able to help with, but there was nowhere for me to easily turn to and access them. Everyone has similar questions in business, you just don’t know that when you are sitting in solitude trying to figure things out!
Whatever 2022 brings us, there are certain business learnings that other SME founders may find helpful next year.
Never be afraid of something not working out. If you do, you will just tie yourself up in that. You have got to pick a path, and a route to take, and just start. If you get halfway through and don’t get the results you are after, you step back, take a look at why it didn’t work, and then start again by taking a different path. At the end of that project, ask yourself if you got the outcomes you wanted. If not, what lessons can you learn when you try again? That isn’t failure. That is moving forwards and making progress.
Don’t listen to your friends and family. They will, more than likely, tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear and what is best for your business. Instead, seek advice from other professionals who have been in a similar situation to you and learn from their wisdom and experience.
Understand and accept that you can not control everything. You need to learn how to step away from the business and empower other people to make decisions so they can take over aspects of what you do day-to-day. By doing this, you will free up time for you, or to work on your business, rather than always working in it.
Disagreements are really valuable in business. By respecting and listening to other peoples’ opinions, you will discover what your options are and then make better, more informed decisions.
All the cash is not your cash! It’s quite common for new business owners not to keep track on cashflow and come unstuck when, a year into running their business, they get their tax or VAT bill. It’s really important that you manage your cashflow, keep track of your profit and loss reports, and understand that some of the money in the company bank account belongs to HMRC and, as the business owner, it isn’t all yours.
Today, the first port of call for many people, when they are seeking advice, is social media. However, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are so noisy and fast-paced that it can be virtually impossible to search for answers. You also have to be on the platforms all the time to really engage in conversations and see the answers you need, and that just doesn’t work for time-strapped business founders. Small business owners are spinning so many plates that they need somewhere to go to, as and when challenges arise. They need to access credible advice quickly and easily from people who have lived through the same experiences.
As human beings, we thrive on storytelling and narratives and it is how SMEs can thrive too. Shared experiences are hugely beneficial to company founders when they are starting out, as well as when they have been in business for a while. So, let’s keep sharing, keep growing, whatever 2022 throws our way.”