• The Business Owner

How we deal with uncertainty as business owners

It goes without saying that 2020 has been an extraordinary year, the events that transpired are a once in a lifetime occurrence and the effects of this have been far reaching. At time of writing the UK economy was predicted by the IMF to contract by 10.4% this year, an astonishing figure, but one that will have far reaching lessons for business owners both now and in the future. Added to this is the additional unknown of Brexit and how that may or may not affect the economic power of the country. However, we are business owners, entrepreneurs, the intrepid, the hunters and we look for opportunities at every turn, doesn’t mean we don’t worry though.


So, how do we deal with uncertainty? We asked a selection of our subscribers how they have dealt with, managed, planned, tested and predicted changes in the market, economy and society to get their take on what is going on and how they are moving forward. We took the essence of these chats and created this Top 10.


Building and maintaining our reputation

‘It’s been our hardcore customers who have stuck with us and got us through lockdown. Maintaining a solid, respectful and mutually beneficial relationship, which was always one of our core values, has paid dividends in these hard times. We lost a few customers, of course, but most came back as soon as they could’. Director – Courier & Parcel Handling


Customer service

‘We deal with the general public and need to visit their homes in order to carry out our business. When lockdown occurred we had to put the staff on furlough and make sure they were covered, the very next thing we did was to inform our customers of what we were doing to mitigate risk and how we planned to resume once lockdown had been lifted. We were available on the phone and live chat and kept a dialogue going with as many of them that would engage with us as possible. That and the free biscuits we gave out seemed to have cemented our service level in our customers minds’. Owner – Domestic Appliance Repairers


Great financial data

‘Knowing where we were financially was probably the most helpful data I had when Covid struck. I could plan with the rest of my team how long our cashflow would last, how we could lower our outgoings, how much we were able to borrow instantly, short and medium term, if necessary and also what potential late payers or bad debt we were facing. Just having this information to hand, as our accounts are always up to date and accurate, relieved so much stress I can’t tell you. I’d previously owned a company where the accounts were out of control and that gave me many, many sleepless nights.’ CEO - Manufacturer


Savings

‘We’d saved up over a number of years to make sure we had at least 12 months worth of bills covered in case something happened. I’d been given this advice when I first started my business in 1998 by my accountant, who was rather an old school chap, but I always remembered the advice. I had 3 months worth in an instant savings account, 3 months in a 32 day notice account and the rest in a 90 day notice account. Not exciting but helped me when 2020 happened’ – Owner – Carpentry Services


Diversification

‘Our business has always done well in a downturn but tails off when times are better. We needed to diversify to flatten out that trend and we moved from just trade to include dealing with the public too. As soon as lockdown started we lost all our trade work, which we’d never seen before, but we then saw an increase in our work from the public as we could send our products directly to their homes and they were of course locked down. I’d say diversifying into other markets is a safety net if you can make it work’ – COO – Cleaning Product Supplier


Roll with it

‘This isn’t very exciting but I just went with the flow. I couldn’t do anything so I tried to stop worrying about it. The furlough scheme saved our company. If the government hadn’t stepped in we would have been finished. But it didn’t matter how much I stressed there was still nothing I could do. So I stopped worrying, stopped listening to the news and went for more walks’ CEO - Recruitment


Don’t stop moving

‘We’d talked about home working for months and our business model supported this but we’d always been reluctant. As soon the virus started to cause havoc we implemented the home working plan and started further work to enhance our IT systems, we are fortunate to have our own IT department and developers. We then started to look at improving our efficiency and ways we could enhance our services to our customers. We learnt that we can get through anything as a team and that we all have to keep moving forward’ Ops Director – Maintenance


Foresight

‘We import goods from outside of the UK and had been quite on edge around Brexit anyway. As we saw the reports from China in Dec 2019 we started to plan on the virus reaching the UK and having similar consequences as they did in Wuhan. We took the decision as a board to limit purchases over a certain size until we could see things calming down. We’re not clever, we just happened to notice the right thing at the right moment’ Owner – Importer of Cosmetics


Insure

‘Our insurance broker Mat has always had a belt and braces approach and he’d advised that we take out business interruption insurance as part of our annual insurance plan. When the outbreak hit we contacted him and he started the process to claim for our loss of profit due to the pandemic. Our insurer is still assessing the claim but it would appear that we may well be covered.’ Owner – Independent Garage


Get some support

‘I got very low during lockdown. The business was losing money, my savings were dwindling, I was being paid dividends only and my company was less than a year old, so the only financial support I got was from Universal Credit. I was getting more and more stressed. I eventually turned to my best friend who in turn got me in touch with headstogether.org.uk and their helpline. They helped me see a bigger picture. I hope people get help when they need it, you shouldn’t be embarrassed.’ Owner – Building Services.


These experiences and the guidance that our fellow business owners and entrepreneurs have shared have given us some clues to how we can deal with the next downturn, recession or challenge to our business. Do what you do well, be adaptable, don’t spend all of your money, make sure you know exactly what you company is doing and always ask for help if you need it.