Order books have collapsed, staff have been furloughed, and cashflow has been reduced to a trickle. Sales forecasts and marketing plans – even just from a few weeks ago – are pretty much obsolete. While the government has announced support for businesses, understanding how to navigate through the labyrinth of overlapping schemes, measures and funding pots isn’t always easy - so where should businesses turn to for support?
For most businesses, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind.
It’s easy to forget that on the 1st March there were only 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK; the first death in the UK was only just over one month ago. Now lockdown measures have radically altered our day-to-day lives and the future seems a much more uncertain place.
First and foremost, COVID-19 is a human tragedy. For many businesspeople, the fear and uncertainty around the economic impact is an added dimension – but one which is pressing to get to grips with. Order books have collapsed, staff have been furloughed, and cashflow has been reduced to a trickle. Sales forecasts and marketing plans – even just from a few weeks ago – are pretty much obsolete. And the latest OBR modelling makes grim reading with a potential 35% drop in GDP this quarter.
While the government has announced support for businesses, understanding how to navigate through the labyrinth of overlapping schemes, measures and funding pots isn’t always easy!
So where can businesses turn to for support?
First and foremost, your local Growth Hub is a government funded body which provides impartial advice to small and medium businesses – you can find which one is your local Growth Hub using this postcode tool. Their role is to work with businesses in their region to grow the local economy by distributing grant funding and providing a source of business growth support. Now, they’re needed more than ever.
Make them your first port of call if you’re not sure where to turn. With the current COVID-19 financial support available, whilst they might not be the ones holding the purse strings, they can always help you to understand your situation and signpost you to what’s available. Their advice is invaluable.
Just as importantly, the Growth Hub will generally employ a team of business advisors that can provide support with anything from sales and marketing through to skills or financial management. The exact support they offer does differ from region to region – but they’re there to help and many are giving businesses support to become more resilient and explore what they can do to help them pull through the coming weeks and months.
(A brief aside for our fellow Leeds based businesses – the business support in Leeds City Region is provided under the Local Enterprise Partnership umbrella. They’ve already got a whole host of support available – including one-to-one support and webinars on issues such as funding options and cashflow. Check it all out here.)
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…
It’s not just business support Growth Hub’s offer – many provide networking opportunities and aim to build links between businesses, fostering an interconnected business community in the local region. We’re all in this together – so building bridges between local businesses and enabling them to work together to overcome their challenges is more important than ever.
Having a strong business community at the end of this is going to be key to helping the economy bounce back so it’s in everyone’s interest to work together and help as many businesses as possible come out the other side of this intact!
Making your voice heard
Growth Hubs (and the Local Enterprise Partnerships that lead them) also amplify the voice of small and medium businesses at the national level, gathering feedback from business and relaying it to the government. So ultimately – working with the Growth Hub is one lever to try and influence policy at the national level. For example, many Growth Hubs are surveying businesses now to better understand the extent and scope of COVID-19 impacts on business.
Taking the time to participate may shape the support that is made available, so it’s well worth checking if there is a survey being publicised on the website of your local Growth Hub.
As a small business ourselves – we’ve benefited from this support first-hand. From beginning our exporting journey, through to undertaking our digital transformation – we’ve been given that helping hand as we’ve grown and adapted.
Now we’re no longer facing a buoyant economy and have an unprecedented set of challenges ahead of us, Growth Hubs have yet another role to play. Get in touch with your local Growth Hub to see how they can support you!
We’ve worked with several Local Enterprise Partnerships and Growth Hubs to increase business engagement. If you want to know more on how your local Growth Hub may be able to help you as a business, please feel free to get in touch with me directly and I’d be happy to have a chat and point you in the right direction. You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office on 0113 487 7013