Richard Scutt, Programme Manager, from BCU’s newly launched STEAMhouse Incubator shares some of his top tips for keeping your small business moving during lockdown.
1). Stay visible
“Keep in regular contact with your suppliers, partners and customers. This could be by phone or by email – it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is staying visible and making sure that people know you’re still around and ready to help. It’s not about badgering people or making a heavy sales pitch. This is a difficult time for lots of people so contact from a friendly face will probably be welcomed. ‘’
2). Don’t re-invent the wheel
“If you have an existing product or a service that’s been successful with a particular customer or in particular market then look to see how you can extend this in similar areas. All too often businesses think they have to be continually looking to target new sectors or re-invent their product offer when, in actual fact, small tweaks can make a product or service really attractive to sectors either side of your current marketplace. There are advantages sometimes to sticking with what you know – not least of which are the cost advantages.”
3). Reduce the uncertainties – talk to the experts
“So many things have changed in the past six weeks or so that it can be difficult to keep up with the detail on new sources of funding, changes to regulations and trading conditions. My advice is simple – seek out trusted sources of information such as your local Chamber of Commerce and talk things through with them”.
4). Keep your records in order
“Businesses, large and small, have had to quickly adapt to new working conditions that it’s very easy to lose track of records and systems. There will come a day when things return to ‘normal’ and if you’re able to keep all your records such as enquires, sales orders and invoices up to date during the lockdown, the transition back will be far easier”.
5). Spend time on innovation
“Whilst I’ve already said that keeping things simple is a good idea – this period could also be a great time for thinking about how you could do things differently or to take some time for on-line learning. Innovation can be about thinking differently and taking these small steps as much as it is about dramatic change. For example, I remember working with a clothing retailer in Cornwall that conducted a lot of business on-line. The simple introduction of a helpful online size checker to their website had a dramatic impact on the level of returns due to mis-sizing which not only reduced costs but improved customer satisfaction at the same time”.
The STEAMhouse Incubator opened in March and is located on the ground floor of Millennium Point, in central Birmingham. It has space to support up to 40 start-up businesses, with the aim that the majority of these will be run by BCU students and graduates. The Incubator also connects to the University’s existing STEAMhouse facility in Digbeth, providing a space for product and service designers to sustain themselves and turn their business ideas into a reality.
Learn more and enquire about STEAMhouse business incubator here.