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SMBs need a plan A: don’t mistake resilience for invincibility

CEO Steve Hare discusses how SMBs are emerging resilient from the pandemic, and the support needed by them in 2022.


"As we approach the end of 2021, what is resoundingly clear is that the SMBs must not be expected to rely on resilience alone."

21 DEC 2021

The news just out that the UK government will support the hospitality and leisure sector as it grapples with the consequences of Plan B restrictions in the run up to the holiday period is really welcome.  In particular, access to the statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme for any business with fewer than 250 employees provides reassurances to small and mid-size businesses that they can continue to trade their way out of this difficult period without compromising the wellbeing of staff.  With the likelihood of more restrictions on the horizon, we must not be complacent. These measures alone are not enough.

While we may not yet be in lockdown, the cashflow boost that many SMBs rely on during the Christmas period has failed to materialise. Having invested so much into building their resilience and agility over the last eighteen months, further restrictions or even the loss of consumer confidence could be a body blow for these businesses. Mistaking the sector’s resilience for invincibility is a mistake.

So, we welcome the government’s decision to give SMBs in the hardest hit sectors the early Christmas present of consideration, and encourage them to continue to keep SMBs front of mind as they plan their economic response to this latest phase of the pandemic.

Of course, if the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we are all in this together. Though as I’ve said before, we are not all equipped equally to deal with what we must face. As such, we must acknowledge the role we all have to play in taking care of one another – in life and in business. At Sage, we are committed to Knocking Down Barriers for the SMB sector; a bold ambition that requires our time and resource and which rests on a partnership approach. We can’t expect to achieve it by ourselves, nor is it feasible or fair for SMBs to rely on resilience alone.

The same is true of negotiating the next few months. To support the SMB community around the world in this next wave of the pandemic, we need a collaborative approach – the creation of a virtuous circle. So, what does that look like? 

From a consumer standpoint, we can pledge to shop locally and support local businesses. Putting money back into local economies all around the world will give SMBs a much-needed boost to help navigate the next few months.

The broader business community has a vital role to play too. Healthy cashflow is the lifeblood of any small company; it is imperative that they get paid on time. According to our research, over 1 in 4 SMBs cite this as a potential big boost in 2022.

The Government must also listen to the community. Just under a third of SMBs (30%) cite lowering National Insurance contributions as having the potential to provide the biggest boost to their business in 2022. And currently, 61% of SMBs are in support of mandatory employee COVID vaccines, rising to over 80% for workers in higher-risk industries.

For our part Sage has taken a number of actions over the last 18 months to adapt to customers’ needs including providing flexibility on payment to SMB customers that need it, supporting the 43% of UK businesses that use Sage to introduce the furlough scheme if they if they needed it, and setting up a Coronavirus hub, to support small businesses through the crisis which has provided guidance to 450k visitors since the pandemic began.

Of course, SMBs also have a role to play in creating this virtuous circle too. It is encouraging that almost half of SMBs rank employee health and well-being as a top priority. At Sage, we have already seen SMBs support their people and the wider communities in which they operate through the take up of solutions such as Earned Wage Access which supports employee wellbeing by enabling advanced wage payments to employees for a nominal flat rate. Others like Gamely have build ‘doing good’ into their DNA, giving away 10% of its profits to charity from the start as well as thousands of games to good causes every year.

As we approach the end of 2021, what is resoundingly clear is that the SMBs must not be expected to rely on resilience alone. We must ensure that we all help in knocking down the significant barriers coming their way. And while there is no suggestion that this will eliminate the burden of recovery for SMBs entirely, a considered, collaborative approach – bringing together government, business, and consumers alike – can help ensure the road ahead is at least somewhat more navigable.

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