It hasn’t been the best of times to be an entrepreneur, to say the very least. Trapped between the rock of the coronavirus pandemic and the hard place of looming Brexit uncertainty, so many businesses have been forced to reconsider how they operate, and some have unfortunately had to shutter their doors due to the financial effects of COVID-19.
Working through the pandemic has not been easy, especially for startups and small businesses in the financial and insurance sectors. While the way in which they work has had to adapt to the “new normal”, the workload hasn’t stopped growing. It really is a testament to the bright minds in the industry that such a massive pivot has been possible while continuing to take on more business. The remote working phenomenon has played a major role in all this. While startups and small businesses might be used to non-traditional working arrangements, the switch to working from home has definitely been more difficult for larger and more established firms who become very used to one place and one way of working.
However, when needs must, they have also done all they can to make the transition to remote working as seamless as possible. The main impact of “WFH” so far has been on the people involved rather than the bottom lines of businesses. People who would normally be in a workplace chatting to colleagues, getting out of the house, and separating work from life are now in their homes sitting at desks alone. This has had a marked effect on workplace morale and more importantly the mental wellbeing of workers. Businesses are doing what they can to remedy this, with regular online social events, limited returns to the office, and flexible hours for those who need it, but the working world is still looking for a way to get that office feel while the office is closed.
Another major challenge has been an apparent apathy on the part of the government. Established businesses have received support in the form of grants, loans and the salary support scheme. This did not translate well into the world of startups, as the “bounce back” loan was decried as posing too much risk for small businesses, and the salary support scheme which limited possible applications and omitted the self-employed entirely. The government did in all fairness attempt to remedy this series of errors with later schemes but for many the damage was already done.
The saving grace for many entrepreneurs has been the Chancellor’s decision to stop short of abolishing Entrepreneur’s Relief. While he did indeed slash it considerably, the key fact was that he kept the threshold at £1 million when experts had predicted it would be removed completely. The main positive for startups is that while the relief is no longer available for larger businesses, for early stage startups it is still very much a possibility.
We absolutely have to give a shout-out to all the entrepreneurs who have been shouldering a lot more responsibility than usual. All the stress and worries of staff have been piling on to them, and the financial pressures have been theirs to bear alone. You can never underestimate how much of their soul an entrepreneur puts into their business, how it’s almost like another child to them. Startups are an important driving force behind the creation of new jobs, the development of new business and innovation across sectors, and the founders who keep these industries thriving never seem to get the thanks they thoroughly deserve.
As we take the first wobbly steps along the road to recovery, we have to think about exactly how startups and small businesses can adapt to the new working world. The first step is of course properly adapting to remote working. It isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future so we all might as well learn to live with it. The tools are out there to host good and engaging meetings online, Teams, Meet, Zoom, or whatever suits your business’ needs. It’s also important to safeguard your business and your team against any unforeseen events that might come your way. If the year 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we should always be preparing for the absolute worst. Be prepared to pivot your business around anything that may arise, be aware of the current government support for a business of your size, and always, always put your people first.