FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES COLUMN: A new year means new challenges and new opportunities for small businesses

For many, 2020 and 2021 are two years they are happy to have left behind, says Lee Osborne, development manager at Warwickshire & Coventry FSB.

Businesses will be hoping for a better 2022

The disruption caused by the UK’s exit from the EU, the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, increasing operating costs, supply chain challenges, staff shortages and a myriad of other disruptions have combined to make, for some, the ‘perfect storm’.

However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom.

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There have been numerous small firms across Warwickshire rising to the challenge during the most trying trading conditions in living memory.

Small businesses in some cases have fundamentally changed the way they operate, developing new products or services and opening up new markets.

There is hope that the lessons that have been learned over the past year will stand small firms in good stead for 2022.

For example, hybrid working and events have provided opportunities for businesses to engage with each other in person, remotely or both. These options have never been fully explored before, but can be incredibly efficient.

Of course, for many small businesses these new ways of working have required some changes to their technical, logistical and management practices.

Small firms have been compelled to look at the advantages of using technology to do things better, faster and smarter than ever before.

Environmental issues are being taken more seriously and with a degree of urgency. The challenges of ‘going green’ are balanced by the opportunities for businesses to be leaner, cleaner and to benefit from the adoption of – or supply of – environmental technology solutions. These all provide new markets and new options for smaller businesses.

International trade could also be a focus for small business owners in 2022. At the Federation of Small Businesses, we know that the smaller a business is, the less likely it is to trade internationally. Research shows that only around one in 10 small businesses export or import products and services. That means nine out of 10 could yet reap the rewards of selling more in other markets and locations.

FSB’s recent report, ‘Ready to Launch’, sets out how Government can help small businesses to get to grips with overseas markets.

The year ahead will not be easy for small businesses, particularly with immediate challenges around the Omicron variant impacting consumer confidence and further challenges on the horizon with tax increases and increases in operating costs.

However, there are opportunities and options for flexible, innovative and resilient small businesses to capitalise on, helping to benefit both the local economy and community.