Ideas for developing a business in a challenging climate

Businesses across Scotland have faced significant challenges over the last ten months. However, while trading conditions are difficult, there are opportunities for small businesses to grow. This article outlines how this is possible with the right support and approach.

Across our local offices, our teams are exposed to a variety of businesses working across different sectors. Thanks to this, we are constantly adapting to business demands as our advisers continually support firms on their growth journeys.

While some of this activity is on hold due to the current circumstances, there are still things businesses can do to ensure they are in a strong position to grow and develop once the pandemic passes.

Through Business Gateway, you can access a wide range of free resources, support and tools to help you develop and grow your business. Whether you need to learn new skills or create new opportunities to develop sustainable strategies for growth, our service is always available to help.

Ultimately, if you are planning to grow your business, there are a few things to take into account:

Taking it slow

It takes patience to grow and develop your business. There will be setbacks, but by taking it slow, you can manage these challenges effectively.

There is, of course, an element of quick thinking and initiative that is required by anyone who is interested in working for themselves, but problems can arise when this turns into impatience. Growing a start-up is a marathon, not a sprint.

Having a plan

Business owners would be forgiven for not having a coordinated pandemic response in place prior to COVID-19. However, a comprehensive business plan can help give a little certainty to the unexpected and provide valuable clarity in times of crisis. It ensures you are in the strongest position possible and capable of adapting to the unexpected and gives your business focus, ensuring every step you take is one towards your professional goals.

If you are not sure where to start, our free template is available to download and can help you determine your objectives and set you up to approach potential investors.

Identify milestones

Celebrating different milestones is a great way to show how far you have come as a business and provides excellent motivation to reach your next goal.

Important milestones are varied for each business but can include hiring a staff member, securing grant funding, or entering new premises.

Celebrating these events provides crucial opportunities to promote your business and attract new customers, both of which are vital if you want to ensure the growth of your business.

The importance of an online presence

During lockdown, there were many people exploiting the advantages that come from having an online presence to survive and grow their business. Not only that, but we know through DigitalBoost, Scotland’s digital skills programme delivered by Business Gateway, many businesses have been using this period to identify possible improvements that could be made to social media channels and websites through our free DigitalBoost Health Check.

For us at Business Gateway, we know that most clients are already online, so for us, our role is to encourage these efforts and give businesses the confidence they need to use a variety of social media channels and eCommerce sites effectively so that they can expand their reach.

The pandemic clearly showed that even in cases where businesses were unable to trade directly via these platforms, online platforms can provide a direct, low-cost way to keep in touch with customers, keeping them updated and engaged with your business and brand.

More information about the opportunities afforded by digital and online platforms is available through our dedicated DigitalBoost resources.

Preparing for the unexpected

While the vaccine deployment offers businesses and people hope, the pandemic is not over. Given this, businesses must have a plan in place to ensure that customers are kept informed about important business updates and trading plans. It is critical to undertake thorough planning as this will allow businesses to successfully adapt to a rapidly changing trading environment and look for ways to limit negative impact on your products and services.

So, if you are thinking of starting a business, or are looking for support with an existing one, please explore the range of resources, free tutorials, webinars and podcasts we have available across a variety of topics including HR, marketing, sales, finance, as well as ongoing challenges such as leaving the EU and COVID-19.