19 March 2020

Ian Bird Business Adviser with Enterprise Agency Nwes looks at the problems faced and what to do.

All my training says “plan, plan, plan”, so when things get rough I do just that, I have a plan A and a plan B sometimes a plan C and D too. In these unprecedented times I believe a plan will help most businesses with the extraordinary situation we now find ourselves in, it can’t hurt that’s for sure. We will need lots of other support, both financial and advice, but the government are listening and responding to business needs.

The steps being taken are based on the medical, scientific and statistical advice they are being given and only time will tell how much of an impact these measures will have on the spread of the virus and the impact on the economy and business.

The government has already announced some financial support, in terms of business rate relief and a grant, the full details of which will come out shortly. As the virus and impact spreads further, more extreme measures are likely, and it may result in a period of almost total ‘lock down’.

For most of us we cannot control these measures and have to accept the advice/orders laid down. But that doesn’t mean we should become resigned and reactionary. We knew when we set out on the path of self-employment there would be challenges and whilst we probably didn’t see this one coming we knew there would be something, so what we need now is the full extent of our entrepreneurial spirit to survive this crisis.

  1. Be proactive not reactive.

Accept what you cannot control but look for ways of responding to the challenge – if you are a restaurant/café your ‘eat in’ sales will be hit hard ( maybe even stopped completely) but can you operate take away and/or delivery – people will become bored at home and will look for the odd treat so a nice meal delivered to their door might become a more regular occurrence.

The crisis is likely to start another boom in online sales – people have no choice  – but if they like that method of buying and if the crisis continues ( as some predict) into 2021 then online could become ‘the norm’ – are you ready for that ? Is that an opportunity for you?

Crisis creates change – are you someone who has the foresight to understand how people will respond during, and most importantly after the crisis? What will their habits and buying preferences be?

  1. Think beyond the isolation period and prepare for what comes next.

When we start to come out the other side of this phase there will be opportunities for business to capitalise. Make sure you are ready with special offers and deals to win back your old customers who have now found a new way of living, but also look for new ones who will be keen to ‘get back to normal ‘ after a period of isolation

  1. Communicate with your creditors.

In times of crisis most creditors are reasonable if you talk to them – the worst thing to do is ignore their calls and emails and bury your head in the sand – however bad it gets talk to them – especially if it’s HMRC ( who we would all expect to be very understanding and supportive)

  1. Look for innovative payment plans – at times like this it’s amazing what people will sign up to if they think they have a good chance of being paid rather than not.

Look at lease amendments, payment holidays and weekly payment plans (even if it is a very small payment) don’t be put off by the first response – look for compromises and make bold offers.

If you simply have no money, look at bartering or offer hours in exchange for ‘time to pay’ or instead of money.

  1. Don’t panic and don’t give up.

This is a global crisis; everyone is being impacted and the government are responding. There will certainly be challenges, people will need to dip into savings, take additional credit and all manner of more extreme measures but we will come out the other side, so if you have a solid business you can survive.

  1. Take advantage of the support on offer.

It might be financial from the government, your landlord or creditors or it might be planning or advice – whatever it is don’t struggle on your own – ask for help.


Nwes is available to support new and existing businesses.

Email Ian ian.bird@nwes.org.uk


Ian Bird provides advice through the New Anglia Growth Programme with is part funded by European Regional Development Fund.


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