Small Business Stimulus Guide
The past few months have been trying to say the least. By early April, more than ninety countries had requested bailouts from the International...
Time to Thrive:
Small Business Stimulus Guide
Time To Thrive:
A Small Business Recovery Guide
Table of Contents
"The Chinese use two brush strokes
to write the words 'crisis.' One stands
for danger; the other for opportunity"
- John F. Kennedy
"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the words 'crisis.' One stands for danger; the other for opportunity."
- John F. Kennedy
The past fifteen months have been trying to say the least. They’ve also been enlightening. Forced into radical changes almost overnight, small businesses have shown the true meaning of resilience, adaptability, creativity and collaboration. All while bearing a greater weight of vulnerability.
It wasn’t easy. With less cash on hand and fewer resources, you entered this crisis more fragile than large enterprises. But since those seismic days of March 2020, you’ve shown that you’re more agile. You implemented change faster and set yourself up to recover more quickly. In difficult times, necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and this pandemic is no exception. As traditional methods of doing business were rendered irrelevant, small businesses in every industry began to reinvent themselves, and many are doing it with technology.
Small businesses represent 90% of companies and account for more than 50% of employment worldwide1. You are the backbone of our communities; when you’re strong, we’re all stronger. That’s why we’ve created this guide — filled with industry insights, helpful resources, and stories of innovation — to empower you to emerge from this crisis with a business reframed for future growth. Between survive and thrive there is a bridge. Why not set foot towards a recovery like none other?
Start crossing the bridge to a thriving future.
Time To Thrive
Take advantage of stimulus grants today
This ebook will take you through how to thrive and also financial sources that will help you. By now you’ll be familiar with UK Government business support measures such as the furlough scheme. Now that many small businesses are looking to expand and grow as the economy begins to unlock, a range of stimulus measures are also available, or about to be introduced, that create new opportunities for UK employers and employees.
If you would like to find out how Cisco Designed Technology can support your business click here or contact Cisco Sales
As you’re generally able to use grant money as you see fit, it could be a good opportunity to invest in technology that assists you with training, boosts your online presence or allows your growing team to work more productively together. Let’s take a look at some of the schemes:
Cisco partnership with Grants Office
If you need help navigating the multiple grants and stimulus technology packages on offer, we’re here to assist you. In partnership with the Grants Office, we’re on hand to guide you through the entire process, ensuring you find the right package for you and your business.
T Level Incentive Fund
The T Level incentive fund is designed to support employers by ensuring they can continue to host placements. The scheme could be a valuable way for you to build the pipeline of skills and talent you’ll need as your business emerges into the post-covid landscape.
As an employer, you’ll be able to claim a £1,000 cash boost for up to 20 students in the available T Level subject areas from 27 May 2021 until July 2022. Find out more here.
Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme
From 1 June 2021, employers of all sizes in England have been able to apply for extra funding to help them take on new apprentices. Businesses can apply to claim £3000 for each new apprentice hired as a new employee from 1 April until 30 September.
The cash incentive could be another way for your business to invest in the skilled workforce you need as you bounce back from the pandemic. Employers can choose how they spend the cash, including on the tools and technologies you’ll need to build the future together. Find out more here.
The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Employers of all sizes can apply for funding which covers:
- 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage depending on the age of the participant) for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 months
- associated employer National Insurance contributions
- minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions.
Your business can spread the job start dates up until 31 December 2021. You’ll get funding until 30 June 2022 if a young person starts their job on 31 December 2021.
The scheme includes £1,500 of funding towards set-up costs, which should be used on helping
the candidate become more employable — such
as training, IT equipment and software.
Find out more here.
Other Incentives For Restart
Help to Grow Scheme
This scheme is expected to provide digital and management training for small businesses to help boost productivity after the coronavirus pandemic.
The scheme is split into two parts. Help To Grow Management is a 12-week programme, 90% funded by the government, aimed at leaders who want to improve their management, boost strategic skills, and drive their business forward. You’ll be able to access the training from leading business schools across the country through a mix of online and face-to-face tuition, as well as support from a mentor.
Help To Grow Digital is set to launch in the autumn. It’s designed as an online platform giving businesses advice on how technology can boost their performance. Some businesses will also be eligible for a voucher giving them up to a 50% discount on approved software, which could save up to £5,000 on the cost of new technology.
Find out more about the scheme here.
Invest to Grow
The University of Derby’s Invest to Grow programme is a mix of grants and repayable loans between £15,000 and £250,000. Designed to support private-sector businesses across the East Midlands, the grants/loans can be used to invest in areas such as plant, machinery or IT equipment – with a focus on creating jobs in wake of COVID-19. Find out more here.
BGP2 from the Birmingham City Council offers grants of £2,500 to £1,000,000 and is designed
to strengthen supply chains, stimulate innovation and help businesses grow.
The programme is available to:
- Start-Up B2B Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) moving into or located in The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership area only
- Existing B2B SMEs moving into or located in The Greater Birmingham and Solihull and The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership areas
Innovation Vouchers for Greater Manchester SMEs
Innovation Vouchers enable SMEs in Greater Manchester to apply for up to £5,000 funding to access expertise, research and specialist facilities to accelerate the development of innovative products and services. Find out more here.
Holiday on business rates
While the 100% holiday rate ended in June 2021, it will be set at 66% for the following nine months.
Reduced VAT rate
The 5% reduced VAT rate will run until the end of September 2021, rising to 12.5% from October 2021 until the end of March 2022.
For more information on these COVID-19 relief or restart schemes, visit these resources:
Small Business: Reinvented
"Small business isn’t for the faint of heart.
It’s for the brave, the patient, and the
persistent. It’s for the overcomer."
Small Business: Reinvented
"Small business isn’t for the faint of heart.It’s for the brave, the patient, and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer."
In Italy, a start-up eyewear manufacturer can’t keep up with looming overhead costs. In China, a clothing store reopens after three months under restrictions but struggles to move seasonal inventory. And in the U.S., a restauranteur has furloughed dozens of employees and closed two of three locations to make ends meet.
These are just a few of the millions of small businesses around the world that struggled in the wake of COVID-19. Small businesses like yours drive job growth and a more competitive economy, but many were not equipped to survive this crisis due to limited cash flow, severely reduced demand, and looming overhead costs. This is still a time of uncertainty. But as we slowly emerge from the worst stages of the pandemic, it’s also a time of unprecedented opportunity. The actions you take now will determine where you’ll stand when this crisis subsides. One of your most important allies? Technology.
Economic recessions are known for causing layoffs, business closures, and financial struggles. But they are also famous for forging visionary entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups. Technology has paved the way for the birth of some of the world’s most successful companies.
72% of all small business owners say the outbreak is likely to have permanent effects on the way they run their business.3
During the financial crisis of ’08, 1.8 million small businesses went under4. Others were born. The founders of Warby Parker leveraged technology to thrive as a direct-to-consumer retail and
e-commerce business. Companies such as Netflix, Wipro, and National Geographic did the same, reinventing themselves to survive the recession, stay ahead of the competition, and become successful businesses.
Countries and markets around the world are at different stages of the current economic crisis. Several of the largest emerging economies are still on the “upslope” of the pandemic, while others are cautiously beginning to reopen. In the midst of it all, stories are emerging: Stories of small businesses using technology to course-correct through challenges and innovate on the fly; stories of small businesses that are now leveraging technology to move at the speed of demand and grow at scale.
Reimagining your small business requires adapting to the current climate, overcoming challenges, and adopting real solutions that can help you thrive long after this crisis ends.
Let’s take a closer look.
"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars."
"If the wind will not serve, take to
You’ve overcome some incredible challenges over the past fifteen months, which is no small feat. We’re not out of the woods by any means, so adaptability is essential as you reposition your business to bounce back stronger. Connecting with peers and experts can help you understand what solutions are working for others so that you can adapt quickly and be decisive — in facing disruption, or following through on opportunities.
More than eight in 10 small businesses say using new technology is key to their company’s survival and growth.5
In addition to cutting costs and seeking financial aid, many small businesses quickly adopted technology that under normal circumstances would take months to onboard. Nearly 90% considered these purchases critical to the survival of their business6. Still, adapting to a new digital reality shouldn’t mean straining your resources to onboard every available digital advancement.
In order to quickly roll out innovations and drive business results, you need three things:
1. An empowered remote workforce
Nearly 75% of organisations8 plan to shift some employees to remote work permanently, according to recent Gartner research. Once the pandemic is over, according to Global Workplace Analytics, 30% of the entire workforce worldwide9 will work from home at least a few days a week.
Remote work continues to dominate the business landscape, but without the proper tools, workers are less efficient, productivity slows, and security is compromised. The frustrations of unreliable connections, an inability to connect, or being dropped mid-call leads some remote team members to “go rogue,” cobbling together a collection of file-sharing and collaboration tools that may or may not be secure.
In addition to needing digital tools that allow teams to work well, organisations also need tools that allow them to work well together.
Today’s workforce spends 80% of its time in meetings, phone calls, and emails10. Integrated technologies like smarter collaboration tools, improved conferencing platforms, and more reliable calling resources empower teams to collaborate efficiently while equipping individuals to contribute where they’re most productive.
To create a more inclusive team experience, the technology you choose should integrate into existing tools for easier adoption. Platforms should be cloud-connected for global consistency and easy access. Solutions need to provide the necessary context to help expedite collaboration, and the tools must be reliable, secure, and compliant while eliminating the friction points that cripple productivity.
According to a National Small Business Association (NSBA) survey of more than 980 U.S. small businesses, between March and April 2020 the number of business owners and their employees working remotely doubled11, a trend that is widely expected to continue. This was the case for Second Harvest.
LinkedIn Learning’s Remote Working Foundations online course saw a 10,000+% increase from February to March 20207.
Bad times create conditions for greatness. They also create a great deal of noise. You’re likely to have been flooded with information about how to navigate this crisis. As you begin to emerge from survival mode, only look to onboard new tools and technologies if you have enough cash to cover payroll, rent, and inventory.
Case Study: Second Harvest
Before the pandemic hit, all 200 Second Harvest of Silicon Valley employees worked at the office. Today, more than 50% work remotely from home. Most employees, including the IT director, didn’t believe they could work effectively from home due to the amount of face-to-face interactions they require. To make the switch to remote work, Second Harvest’s IT department had to make sure there were enough resources for its employees, from deploying laptops to upgrading firewalls and VPN licenses. Since the pandemic started, Second Harvest has seen a significant increase in security threats compared to the previous year.
Having the necessary security solutions in place to mitigate cyberthreats has been invaluable to the Second Harvest team and allows them to focus on their mission of ensuring the community has the food they need to thrive.
Learn more in our Technology to Help Your Small Business Stay the Course e-book
Louise Schonberg opened Karameller, a small candy shop in Vancouver, in 2015. The shop quickly became a cultural and communal gathering place for Swedish expats living in the area.
Although her website had been built for e-commerce, Schonberg hadn’t given it much thought until the pandemic hit and she was forced to close her store.
Fortunately, the team that built her online storefront enabled it with Wi-Fi, video, and DNS security. These tools allowed her to quickly transition her focus to online sales. Karameller saw its highest monthly sales in April 2020, despite the pandemic, averaging online orders three times larger than in-store purchases. And through curbside pickup, handwritten notes, and personal deliveries, Schonberg has not only stayed in business, but continues to fill cultural gaps and retain connections with Vancouver’s Swedish community.
2. A secure e-commerce platform
The pandemic transformed the way consumers shop and small businesses responded by offering products and services online12. E-commerce order growth in 2020 increased 54% compared to 201913, and according to Shopify, brick-and-mortar stores have been able to replace 94% of their in-store sales online14. Your ability to deliver truly exceptional online customer experiences starts with choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business. Evaluate your options with the following considerations in mind:
Speed – As page load time increases from one to five seconds, the probability of bounce increases 90%16. To avoid losing consumers to a competitor, your e-commerce site should load in fewer than three seconds17.
Compliance – If your business transmits or stores cardholder data, you’ll need to ensure that your e-commerce site follows PCI compliance requirements. A SaaS or cloud-based e-commerce provider will handle PCI for you.
Supply chain – More than 40% of retailers expect product delays due to COVID-19 and an additional 40% expect inventory shortages18. Look for a platform that optimises for e-commerce and last mile, last-minute delivery.
AI & Automation – Create a frictionless experience for returning customers, segment consumers, and assess customer lifetime value to better target and personalise digital campaigns.19
Reliability – Downtime can have a detrimental effect on your revenue and your reputation. When your network goes down, your business goes down. That can equate to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost revenue per hour. Look for a platform that offers 99.99% uptime.
Small Business Security Resources
View a checklist of the five cybersecurity tools that can help empower your business here.
Learn more about small business security resources here.
Get the Cisco 2020 Big Security in a Small Business World report here.
A secure e-commerce platform is what enabled Vancouver-based Karameller to reinvent its business model and continue to grow at scale, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic.
3. A robust cybersecurity network
A network that scales as your business grows enables you to add new features and functionality as you need them. Designing your network with reliability and redundancy in mind will provide your business the continuity it needs to recover quickly from unplanned events. It can also help protect your brand’s proprietary information and its reputation. You can learn more about setting up a small business network here.
"75% of small businesses don’t have the personnel to address IT security.22"
Credit someone here…
When it comes to network cybersecurity, many small businesses consider themselves too small to be targeted. The truth is that cyber criminals have significantly shifted their efforts towards small businesses in recent years20.
In 2019, 78% of small businesses suffered a cyber attack21. Cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, however. The first step is to understand what systems are critical to your operations. For a retailer that might be a point-of-sale system; for another business, email might be most important. Identifying your critical infrastructure in this way gives you a clear hierarchy for where to start your cybersecurity initiative.
Fortunately, putting robust defences in place doesn’t mean you’ll need to onboard every solution on the market. Taking the time to understand the needs of your small business and working with
a technology partner who can customise
cost-effective solutions will allow you to build a more efficient infrastructure.
Case Study: Ice and a Slice
Ice and a Slice are a small, fast paced digital marketing agency based in Oxfordshire UK, specialising in the B2B technology sector. Many of their campaigns involve rendering and streaming large video files, which collectively put a lot of demand on their network. Without their own dedicated IT team, Ice and a Slice needed a fast, reliable and scalable network solution straight out of the box - so they deployed Cisco’s Meraki Go “As an agency, we need to be extremely agile and we need a network that matches that agility,” says Head of Digital, Simon Williams, “Meraki Go provides us with a reliable and secure connection that lets us be creative.” It also allowed them to move faster, work smarter and compete with bigger agencies.
Resiliency for the Future
"Fall seven times, rise eight."
- Japanese Proverb
Resiliency for the Future
"Fall seven times, rise eight."
- Japanese Proverb
The COVID-19 pandemic forced small businesses around the world to ditch long-term plans for digital transformation. Instead they flipped a switch, putting a remote workforce in place and providing teams with tools and technology essentially overnight. Although the majority of countries and businesses are still very much in crisis management mode, some businesses are exploring how they can turn these last-minute transformations into long-term solutions that position themselves for growth on the other side, according to the World Economic Forum.
You’re a visionary at heart. And as a small business owner, you’re probably thinking ahead and wondering how best to move forward. Here are three actionable ways to create a more resilient business for the future.
"Incredible positives are emerging
that show the potential of a digitally transformed world."23
Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
A BCP outlines how you’ll continue critical operations in the event of an unplanned disruption or disaster. Keep in mind that most incidents that could interrupt your ability to conduct business effectively are close to home: a major weather event that takes out power, a burst pipe that causes flooding in your offices, a fire nearby that closes local roads, or a cybercriminal who attacks your infrastructure. Your BCP should include contingencies for processes, assets, human resources, business partners, and any other aspect of your business that might be impacted. A disaster recovery plan is a key component of your overall BCP and should include strategies for handling IT disruptions to networks, computers, servers and mobile devices.
Here are some free templates to help you get started.
Leverage the Power of Social Media
Social media is a highly effective marketing channel, ideal for reaching your intended audience, strengthening customer relationships, and sharing relevant industry information. But with limited resources, how can you leverage social media to expand your reach and grow your business? Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Use hashtags strategically
Engaging on hashtag feeds can build exposure to your brand. Associate up to three hashtags with your LinkedIn company page so that you can react and comment from your brand’s perspective, exposing your name to a wider audience. Identify three to five hashtags that are top of mind for your business and add them to your social posts to expose a larger audience to your content.
2. Tap into your existing network
Invite your connections to follow your company pages. You can also notify employees about important company posts to boost organic reach and engagement. Empower employees and loyal customers to become brand advocates, sharing company social posts on your behalf.
3. Amplify content with paid ads
Paid social media ads allow you to reach a much broader audience of potential customers than organic social alone. They also enable you to target unique audiences by title, function, industry, and more. You don’t need a background in advertising or deep pockets to set up effective ads and begin generating new leads. Boost, sponsor, and promote social post with the highest engagement across all social profiles.
For more great insights watch the LinkedIn Learning Social Media Marketing for Small Business class online. Social media engagement humanises your brand, differentiates your business from the competition and builds trust among your audience. Get five tips for becoming a savvy social media marketer here.
Studies and success stories show that being a lifelong learner is crucial for business success and is an integral part of entrepreneurship. New technology, new marketing techniques, changes in regulations or systems all require growth.
Lifelong learning and self-directed learning readiness are both keys to business success.25
LinkedIn Learning has seen a huge increase in small business skill development spanning soft skills such as strategic thinking and remote working to basics like Excel.24
Small businesses like yours have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing learning can help you hone your management, sales, marketing, finance, and self-care skills. In addition to the Social Media Marketing class, LinkedIn Learning offers many other free courses to help you navigate the challenges of today’s economy and help you thrive into the future.
If you’re looking for additional resources and support, Cisco's small business resource center connects you with peers and industry experts around the world and keeps you up-to-date on the latest resources and solutions to drive your business forward. Discuss product roadmaps, influence product direction, participate in early adopter trials, get advice, and share your expertise around Cisco technologies.
Throughout this crisis, you’ve worked tirelessly to navigate uncharted challenges and keep your business running securely. Along the way, you’ve acquired quite a bit of knowledge. Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and use it, along with the right technologies, to build a stronger, more resilient business. “This moment is not to be lost,” states a recent McKinsey article26, going on to advise that those who step up their game will be far better off and more ready to confront both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Visit Cisco’s curated Small Business portfolio here.
Small Business Recovery Checklist
Companies spend during a recession not to profit, but to capitalise on recovery. Now is not the time to think small. With the right partner and a secure, complete solution in place, you’re more than ready to use tools and technology to grow your business at scale in any environment. As you begin to build your business recovery plan, look for solutions specifically designed for small businesses that address your networking, security, collaboration, cloud, and Internet connectivity needs. We’ve included a checklist to guide your search.
Ready to get started? Cisco and our network of partners are ready to help you connect, compute, and collaborate securely, so you can focus on what matters most — growing your business. Learn more about our
Cisco Designed portfolio of products for small businesses.
Small Business Recovery Checklist
As you begin your journey to a full recovery, look for integrated tools and technologies that can simplify your efforts and position your small business to grow at scale.
Secure, remote workforce tools
- Cloud-connected platform
- Wireless networking
- Virtual conferencing
- Reliable IP phone system
- Protected file sharing
- Collaborative virtual workspace
- workplace monitoring to ensure social distancing/employee safety
- VPN, Endpoint and DNS protection
- Payment and information security
- Internet Payment Service Provider
- Compliance visibility
- Robust analytics
- Scalable hardware
Cybersecurity network tools
- DNS protection
- Endpoint protection
- VPN protection
- Password protection or user identity
- Cloud-based security
Business Continuity Plan components
- Disaster recovery plan
- Contingencies for
- Human resources
- Business partners
- Strategies for handling IT disruptions to
- Mobile devices
Have questions or want to learn more about which Cisco Designed for Small Business products might be right for you?