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Banks, Lenders & Investors Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

How does a small construction business plan in volatile times?

The construction industry is always a volatile sector whatever the economic circumstances but figures released over the last couple of weeks have been particularly so.
One survey (from Markit) showed a surge in house building in June, along with an increase in the number of workers being taken on by building firms.
Just a week later, figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) seemed to contradict this with a reduction of output by 1.1% in May and indications of a slowing in growth.
While the months being surveyed do not precisely match, this illustrates the difficulties for those working in the sector as self-employed or sole traders, effectively as micro businesses, who need to plan ahead.
As small businesses, many builders lack the security of future orders which relates to them reporting difficulties with securing finance, problems getting credit for the supply of materials and labour shortages due to their own fluctuating demand.
For all small business, being able to forecast and manage cash flow relies on market research and is an essential part of planning for both stability as well as growth.
The building sector has been characterised by many firms paying for the last job with income from the next job. This cycle clearly catches up with those firms when the next job is delayed or cancelled.
While stressful to be stuck in such a cycle, it can be resolved but needs either an injection of cash, or the assistance of a restructuring specialist. The initial advice is normally free but rarely solicited.

Categories
Banks, Lenders & Investors Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Further thoughts on small business definitions

 

If, as is argued, Micro businesses are unable to take advantage of Government initiatives for small businesses (the S in SME) what about these further two sub divisions?

There are two other types of business that presumably currently fall into the “S” category of SME – the Lifestyle business and the Sole Trader.

Broadly the Lifestyle business can be described as one where its owner(s) deliberately run it so as to allow them to support a lifestyle. They need a satisfactory level of profit but tend not to focus on growth beyond a certain size. Typical examples would be those who want to prioritise their time with children, or those who want to work from home. Such businesses might be based on providing services time can be self-managed such as designers or consultants, or using creative skills to write or make goods for sale. The internet has made many such businesses possible.

The Sole Trader, on the other hand, is a definition used by HMRC to cover anyone who is self-employed. They may have a particular trade or skill they can sell, such as carpentry, plumbing, painting and decorating, accountancy, book keeping and so on, and some may have set up independently as a result of redundancy though others will have made a conscious decision to become independent.

Given time, effort and ambition this second group can potentially grow into a much larger business employing people. There is likely to come a time when the Sole Trader needs support, mentoring and funding to achieve growth.

Plainly, though, to be of genuine, practical help any Government support for the Sole Trader, the Micro Business with fewer than 10 employees and the Small Business, with between 10 and 50 employees should be tailored to each specific group’s needs.

While economic recovery is said to depend on the growth of small businesses what chance is there of Government understanding or adopting this more nuanced and necessary approach to achieve this?