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Local Business Support – What’s Needed In The Coming Months?

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Restrictions on businesses have started to ease up with some already open and others looking to open in July. Policymakers have set out guidelines as to how to achieve a safe return to work, meaning SMEs have serious changes to implement before doing so.

The pressure is on for small business owners to make swift changes to support their employees and keep customers safe. SMEs are relying on technology more than ever to keep up with the necessary adjustments to encourage the return to work. Turning to options such as government schemes, faster processing solutions, and online resources are working well to help ease stress.

Organizing A Safe Work Environment

To make your business safer there is the government guidance ‘Working safely during Coronavirus’ applies to those running shops, branches and stores. The key takeaway is an increased level of duties imposed on SME owners.

Owners must enforce social distancing measures including; limiting the number of customers in the store, maintaining distance at workstations and closing off areas such as fitting rooms. These must be marked clearly with distance markers, signs outside and inside stores.

‘Stand for Local’ is a non-profit organisation that provides online resources for SMEs. The organisation offers help with social media campaigns, printable resources and local business news. The printable resources have posters, opening hour cards, warning signs and COVID-19 graphics. Saving you time and ensuring you’re on the right track.

Small businesses are getting online and advertising new services to carry on operations. Social media is getting saturated with adverts for new companies, and standing out is essential to get a business going. A new marketing strategy could be vital in finding new customers.

Can Technology Help Your Cash-Flow Problems?

Cashflow issues are a leading cause of business failure, now more than ever. With many companies still paying rent, utilities and employees with little to no income, reopening means re-assessing your payment solutions.

The post-COVID-19 business payment structure must be able to support additional card payments replacing cash transactions. Card readers are a convenient way to get customers in and out quickly. Finding the right machine for your business is the first step to stabilising cash flow.

There are many options to choose from, such as a countertop, portable and mobile card readers to suit your business. A countertop machine if your employees are stationary for the day.

As an example, UTP Group provides secure and reliable card readers with the funds clearing in as little as one day as opposed to the usual three-five days. Quicker funding means increased cash flow: you’re able to pay your employees, pay your bills and invest in your business quicker. Increased cash flow is especially important now.

Financial Resources Available

There are a host of financial options available to help SMEs. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has been open since March 23rd and offers access to loans and overdrafts of up to £5 million. This scheme aims to ensure smaller businesses receive low repayments and no upfront costs.

The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme helps SMEs borrow between £2000-£50,000. After making an application, the cash is available within days. The interest rate is non-existent for the first 12 months. After the 12 months, the interest rates are stagnant at 2.5%. Loan terms are attractive for SMEs – up to 6 years. However, businesses already applying for CBILS are not eligible for the Bounce Back Loan.

Finally, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme helps businesses unable to pay their employees during the pandemic. The employees will be ‘furloughed’, a widely used scheme since introduction.

In addition to government schemes, there are active UK funds providing support to SMEs. There’s ‘Barclays Ventures’, ‘Index Ventures’ and ‘BGF Growth Capital’ to look to for additional help. Although difficult to obtain, it is not impossible to find grants you don’t have to pay back. The government’s Finance and Support tool helps narrow down what is appropriate for you.

Final Thoughts

In a post-lockdown economy, consumers are being encouraged to spend at local businesses more than before. The consequences of doing so are only positive. Investing in the local community means nurturing resources sustainably. SMEs are of vital importance in the post-COVID economy. The owners will have additional responsibilities to look out for, non-compliance will mean penalties or being closed down.

Small business owners will have an undoubtedly stressful return to work. Physical changes will need to be made in retail spaces such as social distancing markers and new technology to reduce contact. Investing in new hardware can help manage troublesome cash flow issues upon return as well as government schemes designed to provide financial relief.

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