Bouncing back your business from the effects of COVID-19

When I hear that female founders have been the hardest hit due to the effects of COVID-19 and the UK’s numerous lockdowns, it pains me greatly, not least because, studies such as The Rose Review estimate that if women in the UK were founding businesses at similar rates as they are in other countries, about £200bn would be added to the UK economy!

Recent data from Beauhurst indicates that equity-backed businesses founded by women are twice as likely to be in a critical or severe condition than those founded by men and according to Alison Rose of the Rose Review, the pandemic has compounded the difficulties and expanded the obstacles faced by many women in starting, continuing and scaling their business.

Moreover, nearly three-quarters (77%) of female business owners found managing their business in the pandemic stressful, compared to 55% of male entrepreneurs. Women are also 17% more likely than men to struggle balancing business demands with family life and female entrepreneurs and business owners are 17% more likely to struggle balancing business with family life during the pandemic.

Other research, conducted by the Female Founders Forum, found that female entrepreneurs went into the Covid crisis at a disadvantage and less than a third of all entrepreneurs are women, plus ventures founded by all-female teams received only a penny in every pound of venture capital investment.

So how can we make a business more resilient in the face of an unavoidable crisis? Well, for me, there are a range of business practices, such as using external financing and exporting, which can make a business more resilient for example.

Unsurprisingly, many of the businesses founded during the past year have been in the tech or science sectors, and women only make up 16% of the workforce in tech, a proportion that has remained roughly the same since 2009. Similarly, Beauhurst data found female-founded businesses are less likely to be tech or IP-based businesses (28% vs 33% for all equity-funded startups) and more likely to be in sectors worst affected.

So how can female founders, and founders in general, bounce back? What tools are available and what mindset is needed?

This is where the WealthiHer expert panel comes in: Simon Michaels is CEO of HW Fisher Business Solutions, the business support arm of HW Fisher who specialise in providing back office and CFO services. HW Fisher Business Solutions works with a wide range of clients, from start-ups to established businesses across many industries and service sectors.

Lorraine Sellwood is Director and Chartered Financial Planner at St James’s Wealth Management and finally Linda Plant, who you may recognise from the Apprentice, where she grills the contestants alongside Sir Alan Sugar, built her career from humble beginnings to become one of Britain’s most recognisable business leaders and is now empowering others to successfully start and run their own companies with her Linda Plant Business Academy, including her signature Business Blueprint Course, to help as many people as she can during these difficult times.

So who better to give you their best hints and tips for bouncing back and how to create a plan B!

  1. Be agile - The winners through the crisis moved rapidly and agilely to pivot their business to fulfil the revised needs – Lorraine Sellwood
  2. Pivot and adapt - In challenging times, business owners need to pivot, adapt and manoeuvre. Look at the ingenuity in food delivery and pop up restaurants, in the hard hit hospitality sector, to see the possibilities created by adaptation – Simon Michaels
  3. Create boundaries – Don’t feel the need to be a superwoman. Get help where you need it and delegate where you can. Give yourself boundaries and try to stick to them – Lorraine Sellwood
  4. Ask for advice - Whatever stage you’re at, whether starting out or running a successful business, ask for advice, seek wise counsel and people to talk to, to bounce ideas off.– Linda Plant
  5. Know your options - Debt and equity are both viable funding options at the moment. Make sure you understand the people you are dealing with for both and ensure you are comfortable doing business with them. – Simon Michaels
  6. Cash is king - Cash is king, as is leverage. Use your leverage with a lender to your advantage, talk to them even when things aren’t going well and negotiate. – Linda Plant
  7. Expand your perspective - Seek advice on how to take money out of a business tax-efficiently, such as through pension contributions and using all your available allowances. – Lorraine Sellwood
  8. Protect yourself - Have plans in place such as key person insurance, a business power of attorney and knowing what will happen to shares if a shareholder becomes indisposed. – Lorraine Sellwood
  9. It’s never too late - Age is no barrier to success. You just need positivity, motivation and drive. You have to live in the present and the future, not the past.- Linda Plant
  10. Know your financials - When you’re pitching for investment, understand your financials and, of course, make sure you outline how much is needed and why.- Simon Michaels