Businesses across the UK have faced unprecedented uncertainty in the past year. From understanding how to prepare for Brexit to the continuing impact of Covid-19, many companies have had to deal with a series of unexpected and rapidly changing challenges. The pandemic has also worsened the impact of late payments on small businesses, making it more difficult to manage cashflow, absorb lost income and remain resilient. In turn, reduced revenues and time wasted chasing late payments can severely limit the ability of businesses to invest and grow into the future.
Burdens have been placed on all businesses in one form or another, and the uncertain environment has demanded the ability to adapt, innovate and be resilient. Working with businesses up and down the country, we have seen business leaders strive to improve by making investments in their skillset and productivity-enhancing technology.
As an entrepreneur, I understand the enormous value of external advice and this is something I’m passionate about offering to all SMEs. Our free Be the Business mentoring programmes connect small business owners and leaders with an experienced business mentor from a leading UK company to help solve problems, innovate and plan ahead. Access to an alternative perspective and a committed sounding board can make a huge difference at a time when such uncertainty and change can feel overwhelming.
In addition, it’s clear that technology adoption has a crucial role to play in improving the performance of small businesses. However, it can be difficult to know where to start and what will actually make a material impact to your company. Our research shows that two in three SMEs believe technology can improve their business’ performance. This presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enable the widespread adoption of technology among SMEs as we focus on the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
Adopting technology and digital tools can not only help small businesses tackle late payments by automating processes and clarifying payment terms, it can also make substantial improvements to productivity. For example, the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) found that adopting CRM software drove an 18.4% increase in sales per employee after three or more years. Adopting proven and relevant technology can translate into both financial benefits and more time available to focus on the other important aspects of running a business.
The government has a role to play in providing incentives, as the Chancellor signalled in the recent budget when he announced the new Help to Grow scheme, which offers small businesses vouchers for productivity-enhancing software, worth up to £5,000 each. However, crucially, we need to support business leaders who invest in technology so it can make the biggest difference to their firm. That is why at Be the Business, we offer advice and resources to help equip business owners and leaders with the confidence and knowledge to adopt the right technology for them.
It’s going to take a collective effort if we are going to get back to pre-crisis economic activity as quickly as possible. Continuing to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, maintaining an open attitude to learning, and continuously developing both individual and organisational skills all have a major role to play. Possibly the most important thing for small businesses to remember is that you are not alone – you have people in your corner, whether it’s the Small Business Commissioner or Be the Business. Free support and advice is available to help you make your business the best it can be.
Be the Business is an independent, not-for profit organisation, with one single goal: to help leaders improve the performance of their business. For more information visit www.bethebusiness.com