A New Era of Post-Pandemic SMEs

As part of the March 2021 budget, Rishi Sunak launched his Help To Grow scheme – a support fund exclusively for UK SMEs. “Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy,” Sunak acknowledged “creating jobs and generating prosperity – so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed.”

With small and medium enterprises accounting for over 90 percent of UK jobs, their post-pandemic recovery is more important than ever. Thankfully, the future is looking bright – or not as grim, at any rate. Experts are predicting a ‘Roaring Twenties-esque’ surge in the economy in coming months and years. And with investors and consumers all looking to put their money into supporting local businesses, SMEs will likely see their fortunes soon improve. 

Emerging victorious from the fires of a global pandemic has not been without its battles. Many businesses struggled under the weight of temporary closures, massive drops in consumer spending and social distancing restrictions. But, in true entrepreneurial fashion, SMEs were quick to pivot, restructuring their business model to retain their client base and even attract completely new demographics. 

For some, it was as simple as ‘going digital’. But for others, especially those who relied on being physically present to carry out their work, the changes they adopted were even more extraordinary. 

This has certainly been true for many of our clients at Addition. We’ve proudly supported our small businesses customers as they overcame challenges and implemented new strategies for growth. Inspired by their innovation, we’ve asked SME founders around the UK to share their stories about pandemic-inspired changes that are carrying them forward today!

“We give our staff what they need to be productive at home whilst not breaking their backs – but we don’t accept responsibility for any sweatpants-related incidents at work!”

Nadia Kadhim, CEO, Naq Cyber

As a startup, you’ll find yourself often changing plans and strategies. Sometimes more spontaneously than others. One decision we have taken consciously after the COVID-19 lockdown was to become a fully remote, pan-European startup, not limiting ourselves to one office space with foosball tables and an office dog, but giving our employees the opportunity to work from a remote island if they wish (and if they took a flight in time). 

Despite the fact that we’re missing Lucky (although our office dog still exists in our startup inspired dreams), we are happy that we took this decision as we feel this long-term innovation will give our employees the freedom and resulting quality of life they need to be healthy and productive. Eliminating commutes will give them the opportunity to go for a walk in nature or pick up their children from daycare. Eliminating the cost for office space will allow us to invest in other areas and will ultimately benefit the business.

There are challenges that come with being a fully remote company, as we all know after being locked in our houses for over a year. We plan to talk to our employees and look at their individual situations and needs. We plan to provide the materials they will need to be productive at home whilst not breaking their backs. And we will try to encourage them to take a shower and get dressed before 09:00, but we do not accept responsibility for any sweatpants-related incidents at work. 

“The use of Zoom and systems like DocuSign allow me to help women from further afield. There’s also no travel time, so I am more productive, as are my clients.”

Lisa Suswain, Director of Wagging Tails & Mindset Coach for Female Entrepreneurs

Without a doubt, the Pandemic has impacted the way I work in both of my businesses.

My dog boarding company, Wagging Tails, provides exclusive holiday homes for dogs whilst their owners go away. All of our procedures are now managed online for this, aside from the physical boarding itself, we now utilise systems such as Google Drive and Emails more than before and owners and our dog carers are happy with this.

In addition, we now interview prospective franchisees remotely via Zoom and hold our 3-day training programme via Zoom. This actually is seen as a huge benefit to new franchisees as they don’t have the expense of traveling to us and staying over during the training period. We even had our AGM via Zoom last year. We’ve always wanted to be a very open and accessible business. This new way of working will help our success and growth post-Covid.

I also coach and mentor female entrepreneurs which pre-Covid would have been done in person. The use of Zoom and systems like DocuSign allows me to carry out my services online and help women from further afield. There’s also no travel time so I am more productive and so are my clients.

A year ago working with my franchisees and clients at a distance like this would not have been the way I would want to operate. However, we have all got used to engaging in this way and discovered that actually, it can be a great way of working and training. Many wonderful connections have been made in this way and I’m seeing great results using these methods.

There are definitely ways to plan for your businesses success post-Covid, having the right mindset to be open to change is the best starting point and utilising the fantastic resources we have at our disposal will see you grow your business to achieve the success you desire.

“We created a subscription box service. This made it easier for customers to access spices from the comfort of their own home, eliminating the challenge of finding spices in the supermarket.”

Sanjay Aggarwal, Chief Spice Officer, Spice Kitchen UK

We’re family-run spice business founded in 2012. We specialise in lovingly producing small- batch, freshly ground spice and tea blends. Building on Shashi’s 50 years of deep- rooted spice knowledge, we source the freshest raw spices from 40 countries around the world. 

During the pandemic, we created a subscription box service. This made it easier for customers to access spices from the comfort of their own home on a regular basis. It also eliminated the challenge of finding the spices in the supermarket when demand was high, and supplies were limited. In addition to our subscription boxes, we created recipe guides which we included with our spice tins to inspire those who had taken up cooking from scratch during lockdown. We also created new blends to improve the culinary experience of our consumers. Finally, we created a new range – ‘baby spice’ – so that parents can make tasty meals for their children.

We are now settling into our new unit and can’t wait to see what the future holds for our company.

“We gave clients the instant flexibility to move back and forth between our user plans as needed. This underlined our integrity to work with customers, to their benefit, when times get tough!”

Sunil Nigam, MD, ExpenseOnDemand

Having been in this business for the last 18 years, there were many lessons that we learnt.  One of them was to provide our customers a “leap in value”.  As a result, our focus from day one was on great UI/UX.  Pricing was critical, because we were fed up with customers being short changed – paying for stuff they never used!  When we built our new solution 4 years ago, it became our mission to break these shibboleths. Hence, our pricing, where you only pay for functions you use and pay as you use. 

We have 2 types of users: Power & Casual.  Power users pay a fixed sum and can make “n” claims per month.  Casual users only pay when they make a claim. 

The pandemic has given our customers the instant flexibility to move users between these two types.  As business reduced, they moved Power users to Casual, and as business got better they went back to Power.  While this did not make a huge dent in cash flow, it underlined our integrity to work with customers, to their benefit, when times get tough!

“We always planned to offer on-demand online training, but the success of our remote training has really accelerated this plan. Candidates now complete courses in their own time zones!”

Chris Dawes, Founder, Open Dawes Training

I run a CPD accredited public speaking and presentation training through my company Open Dawes Training Ltd. Mostly delivered face-to-face, on a one-to-one or group basis, when the pandemic hit, I switched to online training and began delivering courses and workshops live, over video. This was already a method of delivery, for clients too distant to travel to, including clients in Australia.

Now, I’ve taken this one step further and created online, on-demand training, comprising a series of teaching video and audio modules, assignments, quizzes, surveys, workshops and webinars – all delivered through a student dashboard, which manages progress and can even issue relevant certificates when training is completed. The training can be streamed and completed at any time.

We always planned at some stage to offer on-demand online training, but the success of our remote training has really accelerated this plan. The advantage is that candidates will have access to our training, but with the flexibility to complete courses in their own time and time zones.

“We prospered by refining client strategies, communicating more frequently with them than before, providing higher quality workmanship as well as improved services.”  

Umarah Hussain, PR and Outreach, Surge

Our digital marketing agency saw an amalgamation of losses and growth during the pandemic, especially the first 3 months of 2020. 

During the first lockdown, Surge saw huge losses due to clients wanting to cancel contracts, as many agencies had. However, the firm took a hold of its failure and utilised it for the better, expanding to a bigger, newer office, hiring 10 members of staff in 6 months and securing clients on a national scale. 

This prosperity simply came about by adapting to the environment (refining client strategies whilst communicating more frequently with clients than before), providing higher quality workmanship as well as improved services to keep clients from being warded off. 

By considering client needs, employee needs and pandemic changes, success within a business can be right around the corner. Despite the magnitude of impact COVID-19 has had on firms across the world, Surge envisions its post-pandemic success to continuously improve, as they are projected to turnover 45% in 2021 alone. 

“With event venues closing and events being cancelled, we had to prioritise adapting to the online environment, reaching out to potential platform hosts to accommodate our events’ needs.”

Tamika Martin, MD and PR Consultant, Ucreate PR and Events Management Ltd

We have successfully transferred most of the events planned for 2020 and the start of 2021 into the online environment and so we organised live music and networking events using Instagram and Zoom: Ucreate Virtual Live Artist Showcase, Christmas Cocktail Making, International Women’s Day.

Although our initial objective for 2020 was acquiring more corporate clients, the COVID19 pandemic has influenced a shift in plans. With event venues closing and events being cancelled, we had to prioritise adapting to the online environment which required training classes, market research and reaching out to potential platform hosts to accommodate our events’ needs.

Currently, we are working on organizing the first live event since the pandemic in Autumn 2021 which will be an entertaining evening aimed at entrepreneurs, creative specialists and individuals willing to expand their professional network.

When it comes to my plan to offer the opportunity of working part-remotely, it has been a challenging decision taken after observing and listening to my employees’ concerns. This operating structure also allows space for a smooth transition back to the office and reduces the pressure and stress put on my employees. As previously mentioned, while some do an extraordinary job from home, others struggle with the lack of interaction which leads to decreased motivation and performance. Currently, my objective is to rent a smaller office space for 2/3 of our team and set fixed days for each person to be in the office. 

“We took a hit when clients moved to free YouTube classes, so instead offered an optional license model for teachers who want to keep teaching our methods and classes.”

Cheryl MacDonald, Founder, YogaBellies

The pandemic really affected us at YogaBellies because we had a network of franchisees teaching yoga classes across the UK. However, when the pandemic hit this immediately had to stop. While they all went online, many struggled to keep that constant customer base as many people instead used free YouTube yoga videos, which had a big impact on both our individual teachers’ businesses, and our business as a whole.

So, rather than lose the YogaBellies name altogether, we decided to keep the yoga school aspect of the brand and instead were able to offer an optional license model for teachers who want to keep teaching our methods and classes. 

We’re also launching Empower by YogaBellies – a 300 hour course that helps you transform your life through yoga. It’s using my 25 years of experience, where I’ve travelled the world and learnt so much about the benefits of yoga – sharing everything I know about business and personal success. It’s open to everyone, not just people who want to start a yoga business but those who want to empower their lives through feminine yoga and hormone balancing. 

It’s been a huge change and we took a big hit in the pandemic but we’ve just had to pivot, innovate and not give up and I feel very fortunate to be able to keep teaching yoga and sharing my knowledge of the benefit to women’s health, both personally and professionally.

WANT SOME HELP WITH THAT? 

Stella and Dot Founder Jessica Herrin once said, “You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as an end.”

As the world takes its first small steps towards recovery, small business owners are determined to lead the way. From providing jobs to solving problems, they are a key component to the economy’s – and humanity’s – resurgence. 

But despite their close resemblance to super heroes, we know entrepreneurs are only human. They’d love to do it all, all the time – but they can’t (and probably shouldn’t). This is exactly why we came up with our tailored finance plans – to help carry the load. From tax compliance and bookkeeping to CFO insights and forecasting, Addition are showing up for SMEs. Hop on a free call if you want to know more. Let’s make this all add up!

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