The top 4 threats to small businesses.

On any given day, business owners are faced with a wide range of challenges. Most of these come with the territory; challenges like managing your working capital, cash flow and staff. Yet, SMEs in the UK are currently facing a series of threats that might make the daily running of a business much harder. With small businesses providing the lifeblood of our economy, it’s vital that these threats are addressed and managed.

So, what are the top 4 threats to SMEs in the UK? We’ll break down each of the following and give you some practical tips for how to prepare for them:

  1. Brexit
  2. COVID-19
  3. Cybercrime
  4. Natural disasters

Brexit

After years of debate, referendums and political power struggles most people in the UK and well and truly over Brexit. The unfortunate truth is that Brexit hasn’t really started and with the effect of leaving the EU potentially falling heavily on SMEs, we’ll still be hearing plenty more about it in the future.

The biggest challenge is that we just don’t know how Brexit is going to affect us. At the moment, we still have free trade with EU members but many small businesses are concerned about future changes to trade regulations. The possibility of British producers being hit by tariffs and the prices of their products being pushed sky-high is certainly causing anxiety. And with many news outlets opting for fear-mongering, the closer we get to the final departure the higher this anxiety will rise.

So what should you do about Brexit?

Keep calm and prepare on. Putting some money aside in a separate fund and getting the right kind of finance in place so that you can navigate those first few months is certainly a solid plan. If you do a lot of trade with the EU, it’s a good idea to keep your relationships and contacts on good terms.

You should also keep a close eye on the government’s guidelines for navigating the transition period as UK and EU negotiations continue throughout 2020. This will be a time of quick decisions but making a list of possible problems and an action plan will help you make the right ones when the time comes.

COVID-19

What started out as a few sick people on the other side of the world has fast become a global problem. Spreading quickly and in unpredictable ways, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is proving to be not only a health concern but also an economic one. As The World Health Organisation officially declared a pandemic, the UK government and The Bank of England released statements assuring the public and businesses that they’ll assist in any way they can to minimise the economic shock of the outbreak.

If we take the situation in Italy as a case study, we can already see the impact that COVID-19 is having on small businesses. The countrywide lockdown and travel restrictions might be mitigating the virus’ ability to spread but small businesses like restaurants, coffee shops and retail outlets are either closed or empty. With people staying at home, these kinds of businesses are not getting the income they rely on. Yet, they’re still expected to cover their outgoings like salaries, rent, and debts.

What can you do to prepare for a pandemic?

  • Keep up to date with UK Government’s guidelines for employees, employers and businesses.
  • Ensure you have enough cash reserves in your business to continue paying your staff suppliers, and other regular bills.
  • Make sure that you have adequate sick leave and annual leave available to your employees if they need to self-isolate.
  • Put policies into action so that employees don’t feel the pressure to come to work if they are feeling sick, or have been told by a medical professional to stay home. Use temporary staff or allow employees to work from home.
  • Ensure that if your business can theoretically continue operating 100% remotely, you have a plan in place to make that a reality should you have to shut down your physical office.
  • Provide space and training to your staff so they can have good hygiene practices. You can do this by having a designated handwashing station with the proper soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer available to all your staff and customers.

Cybercrime

With almost all businesses needing an online presence these days, it’s no surprise that crime has followed in pursuit. Whether you have a small business portfolio or an e-commerce site, you run the risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals. Criminals that are looking to cause havoc and make a quick quid or two.

Stats are showing an alarming number of small businesses are targeted by cyber criminals.

Here are 5 tips to secure your business online

  • Keep your software updated and ensure that you use security programs on a weekly basis.
  • Enable data encryption to protect both your own and your customers’ information.
  • Back-up your data daily.
  • Train your staff so that they’re well informed on your cybersecurity practices.
  • Make yourself a recovery plan so that you can act swiftly if you find yourself the victim of cybercrime.

Natural disaster

Natural disasters can cause major problems and disturbances to businesses both big and small. With impacts that are direct and indirect, it’s hard to plan for the potential calamity that mother nature can rain down on us.

In the case of a flood, for instance, you could be looking at the direct impact in terms of water damage to your property and stock. A natural disaster like this could endanger human lives and knock down public infrastructure like phone lines, power lines and public transport. This can all have a great impact on your potential income. You might need to close up shop while repairs are being done, or your customers could have limited access to you due to health and safety risks.

So, what can you do when nature wreaks havoc?

The first thing to do if you find yourself in the path of a natural disaster is to implement your disaster plan. If you don’t have one of these, then now’s the time to create one. Your plan should include the contact numbers of all the official channels you might need to contact in case of an emergency.

You should also know all your health and safety regulations so that you can help any employee or customer who might need assistance. Keep your communication channels open and clear and, above all, stay safe and avoid unnecessary actions.

Although there isn’t much that can be done to avoid natural disasters, you can definitely prepare for dealing with the aftermath. You’ll need to get your business up and running as fast as possible. You can do this by making sure that you have adequate insurance coverage that reduces the risk of major financial losses.

Having a plan of action for these types of disasters can save you and your business a lot of trouble in the future. So if in doubt, plan it out.

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