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My Strategy For Surviving Coronavirus
By Chris Horgan, Director of Swindon-based Finance for Entrepreneurs, a dedicated commercial finance brokerage helping trading businesses get the right commercial funding that the meets both the short term need and long-term goals of their business.
When did you realise the Coronavirus could be a problem for you and your business?
In all honesty I didn’t expect it to affect my business much at all, I knew there would still be a need for businesses to source funding in various ways; I thought I would certainly be working closer with accountants or other professional advisers, with the mutual goal of helping businesses get through what was going to be a difficult stage.
Unfortunately the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan was released, and I say unfortunately, because immediately Banks were looking to keep everything in house, they were no longer looking to commercial finance brokers for help to provide a bridge between those businesses that would be successful and those businesses that wouldn’t. It meant a grinding halt to enquiries, it meant lenders pulling products from the market for “business as usual” products and the commercial finance industry itself has been inadvertently paused.
What has been your plan to continue?
I have been fortunate in that my business model is such that the ultimate goal is always to provide the client with the right finance product for their business in the best possible way. The commercial finance industry is always one of finding the cheapest product the client is looking for, but not making sure the product is right in the first instance.
I have tried to continue business as normal but providing information along the way. What I am focusing on is more collaborative working, and certainly within the “business advisor” sectors. Ultimately, we are all going to be working through this for some time, and collaboration is going to be a big part of survival as opposed to competition.
How have you changed your business as the weeks are passing?
Not quite yet, however, I have been working with some businesses outside my scope of finance broker and helping them using a particular set of skills. There are skills I have acquired over a very long career.
Inevitably there will come a time over the next few weeks that will require a considerable look at the business and whether there is need to change or diversify, unfortunately if I look to pivot to an online service, it will take away the USP of the advice service I provide.
Have you been able to secure any government support?
Oh, the irony, no! Unfortunately, due to the financial services nature of my firm, I am not able to secure any funding, and as I sublet an office space, I was also unable to access the £10,000 grant from the local authority…that’ll teach me!
Though I have been happily working towards helping others secure their's.
What positive behaviours have you seen in business since lockdown?
There is definitely more to be said for some of the collaboration of businesses that have been affected either from more opportunity or less due to the lockdown and COVID-19 in general.
I find I’m hearing more stories of businesses stepping up to the plate, certainly where staff have been furloughed and directors are all hands-on deck, where business synergies exist which this situation has brought to light. If this spirit of collaboration continues SMEs in Swindon and Wiltshire will certainly be in a more formidable position.
Have you seen any negative behaviours?
Nothing necessarily out of the ordinary. What I have been more surprised by is the minority of businesses that have either seen this as an opportunity to capitalise on the “weak” or have been short-sighted in the need to remain in competition.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
At this stage it would be to hold on, if you were already a strong and successful business before this happened, it will come back, this is a hurdle…albeit a large one, but the good days will return.
If you are a start-up, make sure you have registered with DWP for Universal Credit, don’t struggle on and don’t be ashamed to ask for help; we have all been there!
What can we do to help each other?
First and foremost we need to ensure we carry on following the government guidelines to make sure we keep ourselves and our vulnerable loved ones safe and protected.
Continue to be there for one another, if you know business owners, make sure you keep in touch, bounce ideas off, think about future goals. If you’re an employee on furlough, keep in touch with colleagues (those of you who have worked in a role of isolation such as field sales, will understand the need for this).
And if you have no one to speak to or need a different ear to listen my virtual kettle is always on!
Your parting thought?
In the words of Ellen Key - “When the sense of solidarity has been developed to such a point that each one feels the cause of all others as his own, we shall be drawing near to international and to social peace.”
Very fitting right about now.
For more information visit www.financeforentrepreneur.co.uk