While the pandemic has hit businesses of all sizes across almost all sectors, many analysts, including no less a source than the Bank of England, believe the COVID-19 shock has had a proportionally bigger impact on small businesses, with many suffering from reduced cashflows, fewer external funding options and a greater proportion operating in vulnerable sectors.
With approximately 5.5 million small businesses currently operating in the UK, it is essential for the country’s economy that they bounce back from the recession and prosper in the post-pandemic landscape, and Small Business Minister Paul Scully believes chartered accountants can be at the heart of this recovery.
Scully pointed out how accountants are well-placed to add extra value to a small business's resilience and growth by horizon-scanning on their behalf and sharing their knowledge in a range of areas, including access to finance.
“Chartered accountants will, by nature, understand access to finance,” he told the latest ICAEW Insights podcast. “It's about the diversity of finance, not necessarily just going to one of the big banks and looking for a loan. Are there any CDFIs that can get involved? It’s about different types of structures, but also just making those businesses aware of what's out there.
“Just being able to spread that knowledge through and encouraging some of the accountants’ clients to apply for that will be good for both sides.”
New phase of government help
With schemes such as furlough and its self-employed equivalent now tapered down, Scully outlined that the UK is moving into a new phase of government help, including the recovery loan schemes which businesses are able to access and the government’s Help to Grow scheme.
Aimed at SMEs and delivered by business schools across the UK, the 12-week government-subsidised training course is intended to help companies capitalise on the post-pandemic recovery and address the UK’s poor record on productivity.
Scully added that start-up loan schemes are still there for new businesses, as well as help from the British Business Bank, and said that around 80-90,000 businesses are currently benefiting from such loans.
What can SMEs do to tackle climate change?
The podcast conversation also covered the part small businesses can play in tackling climate change. While big business tends to have the loudest voice when it comes to steps they are taking, Scully pointed out that everybody needs to play their part. He signposted small businesses to the government’s SME Climate Hub, which contains some of the small steps firms can take on their journey.
“Some of it is about benchmarking,” he said. “Some of it is about actually working out what impact your business is having on the environment, and importantly, what can you do to change things that will be beneficial to the environment, and be beneficial to your bottom line”.
“Despite what the media is saying, not everything costs a vast amount of money to do the right thing for the planet or do the right thing for the local area,” continued Scully. “It might be changing to LEDs, it might be turning the thermostats down, but it might be an improved use of technology, which can reduce energy use and other such issues there which will ultimately have a saving for the business, not just a big cost.”
Click here to listen to the full ICAEW Insights podcast with Small Business Minister Paul Scully.
Readers can also get more information on the government’s Help to Grow scheme here.
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