With COVID-19 on everybody’s minds, small business owners are no doubt staying awake wondering what impact the pandemic will have on them.

While it remains very tough for small businesses, there have been glimmers of hope for the future. Surviving COVID-19 is undoubtedly top of mind of small business owners at present, but was else gives them sleepless nights and can SME's mitigate these risks?

Surprisingly, overseas research shows that what keeps them awake at night is not necessarily finance-related.

Time

There’s never enough time for small business owners. There’s always that one other job you didn’t get done and you’ll worry about it until you run out of time to finish yet another task.

Trying to fit everything into one day requires you to focus on what’s important that day or lower your expectations of what you can achieve in the time period. Finding extra time is an option but could lead to the worry below.

Work-life balance

Small business owners do find to balancing their business life with their personal life, and everything in between - a challenge.

Keeping a good handle on your business will help you to feel more comfortable and confident to leave your business – even if it’s just for the weekend.

Customer retention

Attracting customers is a major issue but a greater one is retaining them. Many owners have sleepless nights wondering if that new customer will be that holy-grail repeat customers, especially when they begin cutting back on their spending and look for the best value for their money.

To reduce that risk, you need to be agile and aware of your customers’ wants and needs. Be consistent in meeting their changing demands by developing a customer-based culture that reflects your mission and vision. 

Staff

Staffing issues gives a lot of business owners sleepless nights. Finding good staff, retaining them and managing staff issues can be time consuming, frustrating and potentially detrimental to your business.

It can also be the greatest opportunity to make your business successful. Simply put, most business are only as good as their staff. You need to nurture them, help them grow, challenge them, encourage them, show appreciation and make the workplace somewhere they want to be.

Get it right and it’s a win-win for you both, and, importantly, your customers. Studies show that managing the wages bill was the greatest concern of owners. Which brings us to the elephant in the room – financial worries.

Financial anxieties

Generating income for your business is one of the main concerns causing sleepless nights. Have you got enough work coming in so that you know there’s enough cash coming in? 

Where is the next job coming from?  Is that client going to pay?

Managing cash flow is a perpetual struggle for most business owners. One way to improve your cash flow is to experiment with your payment processes. A common business challenge is budgeting. Budgets are key to running a consistently robust business.

You must create a budget that’s realistic for your business’ goals and profit potential.To grow your business, you need a healthy amount of capital to invest in bigger projects.

More working capital can free you up to focus on long-term growth efforts. For all your planning and budgeting, sometimes unforeseen expenses may crop up you haven’t anticipated. When you’re already busy managing a multitude of recurring business expenses, it’s easy to forget about the costs you can’t easily predict, such as damaged equipment, theft, or a warehouse fire.

Build emergency expenses into your budget every quarter, so nothing is a surprise or source of stress. Don’t forget the value of insurance – when a crisis occurs, you will appreciate good insurance cover.

“For all your planning and budgeting, sometimes unforeseen expenses may crop up you haven’t anticipated”

Succession planning

Proper succession planning is an absolute must, no matter the size of your business, and should begin on day one of ownership. Yet most business owners are not prepared for their exit.

By choosing a successor, you ensure your business continues operating long after you’re gone. Business succession planning is especially important for small businesses as there are generally fewer people involved in the business – in other words, fewer individuals available to take over vital job roles.

Business continuity

When disaster strikes, such as the 2019/2020 bushfires on the East coast, small businesses especially suffer and may have difficulty recovering. The present pandemic is now, and for some time, having a profound effect on our small businesses and the economy. While undoubtedly COVID-19 is unique, businesses can – and must – be prepared for the worst and a business continuity plan is vital.

It should not only cover natural disasters but also any risks or threats that could disrupt your business. Planning greatly improves the likelihood that your business will survive.

Again, appropriate insurance cover will help you get back on your feet quickly. Business owners can discuss with their Steadfast insurance brokers what is the right cover for their business. A point about a good business continuity plan is that it could help you negotiate lower insurance premiums as insurers may consider you a lower risk.

Small business in Australia account for almost 98% of businesses. The sector is growing fast and as such, presents many opportunities– and challenges – for those who dedicate themselves to pursuing a small business venture.

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