Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation

Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation

The businesses which are surviving the Covid pandemic best are those which are financially fit, have good digital awareness and a strong support network, says Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, a small business network.

The businesses surviving the Covid pandemic best are those which have financial fitness, digital awareness and a strong support network, says Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation.

She says: “Businesses that previously paid attention to their financial fitness have come out of this better than those that didn’t. Those firms that back in March had a cushion of at least five months cash in the bank, knew how much was coming in and what their costs were, have managed to weather the storm, whereas those that were a bit lighter on financial management have struggled much more.”

She adds: “One positive thing to come out of this situation is every business owner I know is now much more aware of their financial position. This pandemic has really forced business leaders and owners not just to delegate the numbers to the accountants, but to know how much is in the bank and what is due in and out.”

Emma says those businesses that have stepped up their digital awareness have also done much better during this difficult time. “Small businesses which have embraced digital technologies have been better placed to keep on selling. If all your customers are now online then you have got to be in the same place. Businesses that quickly figured that out have done pretty well.”

She adds: “There is a huge amount of appetite from businesses right now for information on building websites, managing social media, figuring out CRM systems, and pivoting onto delivery apps.”

The third element that has really benefited businesses has been having a strong support network. Emma says: “Businesses which have a good support network have withstood what is going on better than those that didn’t. There is a big sense at the moment of businesses cocooning with each other, of really just needing to speak to other people like them and saying, is this what you are going through too? We have also seen businesses turn to expert advisors such as accountants, lawyers and HR experts, to help with hiring, firing, furloughing and statutory sick pay.”

She says that Enterprise Nation’s national network of local leaders, which hosts regular local meet ups for businesses throughout the country, has seen a 70% increase in attendance since the start of the pandemic.

“The big message our local leaders give back is that businesses are coming together not so much to meet people and do business, as they would normally do, but for more psychological reasons. Our meet ups, which have gone online during the pandemic, have become cathartic peer groups. Knowing that you are not alone in going through these challenges makes others think they can keep on going through it as well. We have definitely seen businesses gravitate towards each other for that kind of togetherness.”

Despite the challenges, there are a number positives to have come out of the Covid pandemic for small businesses, Emma says.

The first has been greater productivity: “Any business that has a team which is now working from home has seen increases in productivity because the team aren’t travelling and they are not tired from travelling.”

The second has been greater business growth. She says: “We have seen businesses grow at a fantastic rate if they have been selling the right thing at the right time.”

Emma says there has been a polarisation of extremes, with some businesses going hyper local and others going hyper global. “We have seen the rise of the local deli or corner shop because now everybody is working where they live and so local businesses have done pretty well out of this. But we have also seen a huge number of start ups and existing businesses move to selling solely online which means they are reaching out to people all over the world.”

The other unexpected benefit of the pandemic has been the greater knowledge it has given business owners about their ventures, she says.

“I am speaking to a lot of business owners who say they have learnt so much more about themselves, their business and their team in the past few months. Business owners should take the things they have learnt and build that into their business for the future. It is important to focus on turning your experiences into a positive.”

Emma’s top tips for businesses right now:

1. Make sure your business finances add up.

2. Make sure you know who and where your customers are – and that you are in the same place. If they are all online you will need to have more of a digital strategy for your business.

3. Keeping expanding your support network.

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