In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has presented one of the biggest challenges that businesses have ever faced.
The impacts have been far-reaching and polarised; while the majority of businesses battle to manage cash flow after missing out on important revenue during lockdown, others have seen demand surge and have had to manage the operational challenges that brings.
The saviour for many businesses at this time has been accessing suitable forms of finance to ease cash flow while workplaces were closed, or contracts were delayed.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) was launched by the government to support the continued provision of finance to smaller businesses (SMEs) during the Covid-19 outbreak and delivered by accredited delivery partners of the British Business Bank on a local level.
One of the first finance providers to go live with CBILS was BCRS Business Loans.
BCRS Business Loans is an alternative lender that supports West Midlands based businesses that are unable to access finance from traditional lenders, such as banks.
Access to finance was highlighted as a problem for SMEs as early as 2002, which is when BCRS was established as a non-profit-distributing co-operative loan fund to ensure that no viable business in the West Midlands was left unsupported, offering loans from £10,000 to £150,000.
Stephen Deakin, the chief executive of BCRS Business Loans, said:
“BCRS understands that accessing finance from traditional lenders can sometimes be difficult for SMEs in the West Midlands. Furthermore, we recognise that SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and a force for social good in the communities they operate in.”
“We take a traditional, relationship-based approach to lending, where each business is assigned a dedicated Business Development Manager who offers hands-on support throughout the application process.”
“Intentional social and economic impact is at the heart of everything we do at BCRS. A large proportion of BCRS’ lending is dispersed into areas of high deprivation, helping to create and safeguard jobs that are so essential in supporting families, improving mental wellbeing, and generating a positive economic impact. BCRS also actively promotes diversity by focusing lending to both ethnic minorities and female-led businesses.”
“To date we have lent over £60 million to 1,600 businesses. Crucially, this has helped to safeguard 7,281 jobs, create 4,251 new jobs and generate an additional £312 million of value in the West Midlands economy, which is an astonishing statistic.”
“I am really proud of the team for stepping up to the plate during the coronavirus and being there for businesses when they needed us most. In just under four months we have delivered over £5.9 million to 72 SMEs. This is an unprecedented amount and, to put into context how much we have scaled up our lending to businesses, during the first quarter of the 2020 financial year our delivery increased by 137%.”
Emerging from Coronavirus: What lies ahead for businesses?
As lockdown measures continue to be eased across England, Stephen Deakin has shared his thoughts about what lies ahead for businesses in the coming months as we all embrace a ‘new normal’.
Stephen said: “The major concern for businesses is how to handle cash flow shortages after a reduction in income during the coronavirus pandemic. We are therefore going to see a shift in emphasis from profit to cash flow. Cash will be particularly important in the coming months – especially as operations are starting to return to normal – so cashflow forecasting and updating these forecasts on a regular basis will be absolutely key to highlight if external finance is required.”
“All of us have had to adapt to new ways of working since lockdown was announced in March, with many of us working from home and having to juggle childcare whilst schools have been shut. As we emerge from lockdown and workplaces begin to re-open, I think it is important that business leaders trust their staff and provide them with the flexibility they need. There may even be long-term benefits to working from home and striking the right balance between home-working and on-site working, even if this is part of a temporary transition period, will be important to ensure there isn’t a reduction in productivity.”
“I know it is difficult and not always possible but, if we as business leaders can be brave and, where possible, retain staff this will be significant in helping to make the recession as short as possible.”
“I also encourage us all to continue to be creative and adaptable in finding new ways of working and new routes to market. There is a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the ability of businesses to recover following the coronavirus pandemic, but it is important we remain positive and support small businesses wherever possible. I believe that we have the most resilient and innovative businesses in the world!”
To discover more about BCRS Business Loans visit www.bcrs.org.uk.