The Small Business Breakfast – Meeting Notes
Friday 15th May 2020
Attendees: Dave Bird, Sarah Higginson, Fran Doidge, Barbara Palmer, Chris Baddiley, Sue Lim
Apologies: Ellen Scargill, Carol Unwin, Jeanie Roberton, David Kitkat
Update from those not with us
Ellen dealing with home schooling and caring issues.
David says “work has slowed down, but I’m still doing enough to keep the business running. The Business Rates Grant has made all the difference for security & guaranteeing we stay open. I haven’t had to furlough either of my employees. It would be nice if more could work from home. My secretary is doing very well working remotely while I man the office and I’m really enjoying cycling through quiet roads to work & back. Less flippantly, this has emphasised how important the councils & local support services are. All the more reason to fight for them and resist any talk of further austerity measures. It’s clear that public services are vital, but they have been repeatedly stripped back in the name of smaller government & balancing books. Crises like these reveal what a false economy that nearly turned out to be.
Update from those in the Zoom room
Sarah has been dealing with customers who are having to delay or cancel their planned stays and is predicting no income for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, she does not qualify for government support and expenditure remains almost at its previous level so this will not be sustainable in the long-term. Her business development plans have had to be put on hold.
Barbara has been able to get tedious things done. She is impressed with how efficient HMRC are as regards self-employed income support, which they have achieved a month earlier than promised. Fran has just made her claim successfully and it’s easy to do.
Sue reported that at first the on-line business was busy but now it’s tailed off. She described the challenges of moving her business online, the necessity of having very clear descriptions and pictures of the art and pieces she sells, so she is considering how much of that she wants to do. At its heart, her business is about browsing while having a coffee and a chat, which doesn’t transfer online. Her customers find a safe space with her.
Chris has had internet problems and is working many long hours. His partner’s business interests in Mexico and the US are seriously affected too, so it is a stressful time.
Dave has kept fairly busy creating HR videos helping people understand HMRC arrangements for furloughing etc.
Fran had to stop her massages immediately and has had a few Coaching clients. However, she is feeling positive and is using the time for marketing, creating blogs, videos, images and promoting her side-line skincare business. She’s envisaging a return to massage with the hairdressers on 4th July as advised by her insurers according to government guidelines.
Invitation from our Councillor to help shape our future in Herefordshire
Ellie Chowns, Herefordshire Councillor, had been in touch to ask us to consider how this crisis will shape our future. She would love to hear local people’s views on two key questions:
- What have the impacts of coronavirus been? These might be economic, social or environmental; short, medium or long term; positive or negative.
- What could ‘a new and better normal’ look like? What should our collective priorities be as we start to rebuild? What lessons can we learn from this crisis to help us make life better for everyone in future years?
Over the coming months and years the council is going to
face lots of difficult decisions about how best to use limited resources. We
might also have some opportunities e.g. to do things differently, or to access
new sources of funding. Knowing what local residents think about these two
questions will really help to shape thinking and actions.
Ellie is also wondering whether it might be a good idea to convene a ‘virtual ward meeting’ for people to share their views on this so please let her know if you think this would be a good idea.
Feel free to contact her directly: 01531 670729 or 07950 714947 (landline is probably better as mobile signal is very poor and evenings are generally a better time), or email any time: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also attend a virtual ‘surgery’, every Thursday evening 6-7pm on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3193061339.
Discussion on Ellie’s questions
We discussed the questions above decided to ask Ellie if she is able to arrange a targeted ‘virtual meeting’ for our group, possibly opened up to other businesses in the area if that is possible.
There were some direct business needs and opportunities. For example.
- Might the move of businesses into a digital/ online, potentially 24/7 environment, help them survive?
- What sort of social distancing protocols are needed for businesses in the area – these would vary depending on if you are a coffee shop/ art space, garden centre or holiday house but guidance/ signposting to guidance would be welcome.
- Might there be support for businesses having to think about how to diversify, or even change, their customer base? Support in marketing what we do already might also be beneficial.
- Is there something we could do as businesses to help maintain the reduction in traffic we’ve seen during the crisis (already rapidly increasing in volume)?
- Is there any sense of how the coming months might unfold? Dealing with such high levels of uncertainty is very difficult for businesses.
As a group, we have also been thinking about expanding our geographical base. From now on, we will refer to ourselves as The Small Business Breakfast (taking Cradley out of our name) and will reach out to small businesses in small towns and villages in the area, such as Malvern, Ledbury, Bromyard, Cradley, Bishops Frome, etc. We would be really grateful if Ellie could help us promote this as such an expansion is actually easier to do in an online environment. Please put people in touch with Sarah (email@example.com), Fran (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dave (email@example.com).
We then discussed the fact that this crisis was difficult emotionally for a wide variety of reasons and that the mental health of customers, employees and ourselves as business owners was important to protect. We are unaware of any support mechanisms but would be interested in discussing this (again, this might be a signposting exercise).
In the meantime, we would like to offer a supportive, if virtual ‘shoulder’ for anyone in our group, or further afield. Sarah will share the contacts of those who were in the meeting to act as a support network. If others would be prepared to be part of this, let her know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meetings will stay online until further notice. The link will be sent out prior to the meeting. Contact Dave Bird if you have not been getting the email invitations (which would be from Fran) or if you need help getting online: email@example.com, +44 (0)7824 661038.
There are two meetings a month and we decided to vary the time to cater for the needs of more people:
- The first Friday of the month meetings will stay at 8.30am
- The mid-month meeting will now be at 7.30pm
- 5th June, 3rd July – 8.30am
- 19th June, 19th July – 7.30pm