Let’s just say it how it is: this coronavirus thing sucks arse. Small businesses are struggling, and struggling bad. So what’s everyone doing to try to keep things from going under during this most shittiest of times?
We reached out to our clients and business buddies across the UK to find out what they’re doing to stay positive and stay afloat during this unprecedented chapter in our careers and business journeys – we hope you can find some, well, hope in their wise words.
Gemma Ogston, Chef and Director of Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen
After having all my events and cooking business stop overnight, I have had to readjust the business to make things work from home.
My advice would be to firstly keep calm and take a few days to think about all those things you have wanted to work on but havent had time. Give yourself a break and some breathing space. There is no hurry to come up with something new.
Connect with old contacts and anyone who may be able to help with work, or help assist them by using your skills.
Think about how you can make your online presence work for you; for instance, I am now offering virtual cooking workshops for kids and to help with homeschooling! This is keeping my mind busy, gives me a reason to get up and means I am still connected with my clients virtually (I’m also including my kids in this which is a double win).
If you don’t feel like you know what to do, and if finances allow, then allow yourself a small sabbatical. Why not? You probably deserve it and might give yourself some time to get creative.
Pete Niedzielski, Destination Wedding Photographer and Owner of Ap Art Photography
My profession has been annihilated for the foreseeable future, and not only have the events over the next few months been either postponed or cancelled, but the uncertainty has created a vacuum of enquiries. People are also postponing their wedding decisions which impacts my business – part of my income is from deposits. On top of that, it’s tough mentally. By being sought out by new clients, I feel like my work is appreciated, which is now gone.
I have welcomed the government’s grant that should come into life in June. There’s a silver lining to this though. Personally, I had to calm down, I can’t travel, which has been a big part of my business, so that means I can do more stuff I enjoy doing. Chill out, music, eating healthier, utilising my time wisely. Still not missing out on sunsets! I keep myself occupied with social media and promotion. Sharing images that were ‘lost’ in the process of elimination over the years and reaching out to my past and future clients to check up on how they’re doing. I could sit in the corner and cry, but we are all rowing the same boat. After the rain comes the sun.
Milly Stone, Managing Director at Whitespace
As a small business owner, when news of COVID-19 hit, the initial fear was what do we do, how quickly should we act and how can we get on with business as usual without affecting clients’ requirements. Then it hits you that a lot of what needs to be thought about are your people, your team and their safety. To do what’s morally right.
Only then, once this had been done, I worked out how we could continue to serve with little or no disruption.
I truly think that because we put the people first that by sticking together as a team we can continue with no change to service whatsoever. Share the load, change a few roles around, change tasks and make it work.
We decided very early on to close the office and work remotely, taking no chances while most of our small team have children and elderly parents. It just seemed the right thing to do. We’re lucky as a business to be able to do all of our jobs remotely and with minimal disruption to people’s jobs. Albeit they now needed to be at home.
We went into the office on the Monday, packed up everyone’s desktops and distributed to their homes. As well as setting up those who needed it with handsets (the absolute joy of a VOIP system means we can unplug and plug back in at home with no issues, other than the unaware screams of children on occasion when on a client call but what’s the harm in that).
We all have a WhatsApp group to keep each other going and we have a very approachable attitude that if you need anything or are struggling, take a break, have a walk and go back to it later.
We start at 10.30am to allow the team to exercise/eat with their families. We’ve all agreed we need to be flexible; one partner has four children so sitting at a desk from 9-5 with no breaks other than lunch is unrealistic. We do what we can, and I have faith in all my team that they will be doing all they can as much as they can and that’s all you can ask for in a time like this. Be realistic and be kind. You’ll get more out of people.
We have a weekly team Skype to see how shit we all look, PJs, no shower, no hair brushed, no make-up. Keeping it real. Literally.
As a small business the future is uncertain, but we are taking things day by day and doing all we can for our clients in the process. And making sure there’s wine at the end of the day. That helps.
Emma Batchelor, Freelance PR Director
Like many freelancers, I am working from home and trying to juggle parenting and work demands. Although I am used to working from home, I am not normally also trying to ensure my children are doing their school work and not just spending all day on their XBOX/social media/in bed.
In order to be as effective as possible, I am trying to do the following:
- Ensure everyone has a work space to do their home/school work that is fit for purpose (i.e. everyone has a desk or table to work from).
- Create dedicated work spaces to help separate work from general home life both physically and mentally (i.e. no working in bedrooms). This is made easier for me as we have a home office.
- Ensure that the kids do regular exercise, whether that is PE with Joe Wicks, going for a jog or kicking a ball around in the back garden.
- Take regular breaks – recognising that I need to divide my time differently to my normal working from home routine. For example, we work to the school break schedule and I ensure we all eat lunch and dinner together.
- I limit my news consumption to once a day with one main broadcast and one main online source.
- I schedule in regular catch ups with friends and family via Skype of Facetime.
And my last piece of advice for myself is to remember that this is temporary – we will all through this and there are lots of people in a similar situation.
Alon Atzmon, Manager of The Landor Pub, Clapham, London
The Landor is a thriving pub, theatre and garden nestled in the back streets of Clapham North. It employs 20 staff, some full-time and some on zero contracts. When the news struck, we have had to move into survival mode. However, for us, this was not the same approach that many took that laid off many staff immediately. Our main aim was to look after our staff and protect jobs. Out of the 20 staff, we have managed to keep hold of 19. We are letting seven stay for free in the pub and are paying them all wages including those on flexible/zero hour contracts. We have donated all our stock from the kitchen to the staff and local community, driving around and donating it to those in need.
From a business perspective, we initially did not qualify for any aid and planned for the imminent shut down by limiting alcohol orders and talking with suppliers. Since then, the government business rates tax break and 80% wage subsidy have come as a welcome breath of fresh air. Since operations have stopped, we have spoken to suppliers and found most understand the situation and have offered flexibility. We have also prioritised payments to small suppliers as we understand their cash flow issues.
A valuable source of income for me is from my Tropic Skincare business. So far, this hasn’t suffered too much because the Tropic beauty kitchens are still in operation and deliveries are still being made via my online shop. I also have my Facebook business page and private groups to post about the skincare and reach my audience.
However, to grow my business, ordinarily before COVID-19, I would be going out, sharing the natural products with people at pamper experiences in their homes as well as on a one-to-one basis. These would open up discussions about health, wellbeing and the environment and may also lead to some private 1-1 health coaching work for me. This of course is no longer happening. I was also booked to do a wellbeing workshop for a corporate company on Food and Mood, which has been cancelled.
To continue sharing these amazing products with my audience and to help reach further afield, I needed to add a more personal touch to my Facebook posts, so I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and start recording a series of live videos. I don’t yet know if these will help to grow my business. I’m just not a natural in front of the camera but I hope I will gain more confidence as time goes by!
I also lead a team of Tropic Ambassadors who look to me for guidance, advice, inspiration and motivation. As we can’t meet in person, we have been getting together for weekly Zoom calls. Tomorrow we have a product knowledge quiz and a prize for the winner. Positivity and feeling connected is everything at the moment. So, if it wasn’t for social media and the internet I wouldn’t have a business!
I am fortunate that I work in the creative industry, which although hard hit by the current crisis, is a highly adaptable and innovative industry. As a consultant, my first thought was to think hard about how my clients could adapt their offering in order to survive in the short term. For example, reducing the need for higher risk, live action film shoots, increasing the amount of animators on their roster, aligning themselves with contained, self shoot studios and looking at ways to creatively re-version content that has already been filmed.
We’ve spoken to industry leaders, channels, brands and platforms to establish what the issues are, what appetite there is for content and what form of content is being sought out. In doing this we have positioned ourselves to not only support our clients but actually make them an invaluable resource to others during this period.
In terms of our own security, we are fortunate that as consultants, our overheads are low and working remotely is something I’ve done personally for many years. You have to be willing to accept the current situation and not be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to people. It’s key to understand what challenges your client base are facing and then use your knowledge and experience to offer tailored solutions.
Nick Gibbens, Editor in Chief at Luxury Lifestyle Magazine UK
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the tourism industry since its accelerated spread began back in January of this year. And this has resulted in a number of our travel deals being put on hold for the time being. Of course this is highly frustrating, but we have tried to work closely with our clients to accommodate and help them through this unique situation.
We want to be here for them when this has blown over so it’s important that you remain friendly and on good terms. We have also been in contact with all our regular advertisers to explain that we have put measures in place to ensure we are still very much open for business, for example working from home, and that we can work with them on slightly reduced rates for the next few months.
As a digital publication, we can be very nimble and flexible and this means we have actually stayed very busy. We have adapted our commercial strategy to target businesses and sectors that are still active and have a marketing budget. It has also given us time to roll out other avenues for revenue generation like affiliate marketing and also look at parts of the website that need improving.
Emilia Powell, MD at Emilia Powell Virtual Assistants
To help get through this pandemic, we’re in regular communication with clients and looking at ways to adapt our services so we can support clients during these difficult times.
Working with clients across different industries helps us to minimise the impact it has on our business. There are also clients and businesses that are doing well at this time. We’ve been adapting our offerings and marketing towards these clients and looking at how we can constantly add value.
This time has helped us to focus on other ways to generate income, from online training/workshops and e-products. It’s important to us that we see this as an opportunity to learn and improve and we’re excited to see what will come out of this!
With a brewery and three pubs, we have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. I suppose my main take from everything that’s happened is just how important it is to put integrity at the forefront of any decision you take.
Approach everything with kindness and compassion, even important financial decisions. When the news hit we had to close our operations indefinitely, our first priority was the teams. We have 24 staff and are proud we stood our ground until help arrived with the employee salary grants and didn’t make any panicked decisions and start laying people off. You need to be able to look people in the eyes when this is all over.
Stay calm, look at what help is available to you and take your time. Sometimes the best action is no action. Things are changing hourly.
And finally, be kind to yourselves as business owners. It’s stressful at the moment as there is no clear help for us, so it’s important you make time for yourself to de-stress in a way that’s healthy, like running, as it’s easy to fall into bad habits with eating and drinking.
Elizabeth Castelyn, Owner of Independent Boutique, Jute, in Ulverston
I set up my company just over 12 months ago with limited funds or experience of running my own business. With no website I rely entirely on local business. Within a matter of days my revenue has completely dried up.
Earlier this week I was operating a free home delivery service with success, but given recent government instruction, I have now stopped. All grim isn’t it? But we must grasp on to the positives.
We are all in this together and up here in the Lakes, the community spirit has come alive like never before. My suppliers have for the most part been very understanding and measures have been put in place to help with payments. My local council have activated the grant application form and is being processed with a seven-day turn around.
In the meantime I am cherishing time with my husband and 3-year-old daughter, something I simply do not have enough of at all. Business wise I’m building a website and getting a messy Everest of paperwork sorted.
What are you doing to help get your small business through this pandemic? Leave your tips and advice in the comments below!