Building support to help your business survive COVID-19 – tips from a latest podcast from Aston Business School

COVID-19’s impact has created an ‘absolute disaster for the economy’ which is felt even more so by small businesses and sole traders that help to form the backbone of our UK infrastructure.

“We have had to say to staff there is no money right now, everything is cut, but we want to keep this dream alive.” Joe Fearn, Director of CircusMASH.

Joe was one of the latest guests on a new series of Aston Means Business podcasts, providing essential advice to business leaders and entrepreneurs on how they can access the support they need to survive the crisis.

Steve Dyson, a business journalist and former daily newspaper editor who has presented dozens of regional programmes for BBC’s HARDtalk, spoke to Joe alongside Mark Hart, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business about the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs, and Lee Hopley from the Enterprise Research Centre on the UK government’s package of financial measures.

Joe’s business operates in the circus training market and like many other industry sectors is all about connecting with people face-to-face.

Maintaining this interaction with customers when they are unable to actively attend events due to COVID-19 enforced restrictions can be challenging.

Here are seven key pieces of advice for business leaders taken from the podcast on how to survive the effects of the coronavirus crisis and maintain customer relationships:


1. Use as a starting point: Lee Hopley advises using the official government website is a starting point to identify available business support and keep up-to-date with new policies brought in as a result of COVID-19. Several schemes announced by the government will be brought into place automatically and will not require business leaders to complete an application process.

2. Identify financial support through the British Business Bank: For specific information on Coronavirus Business Interpretation Loan Scheme (CBILS) such as participating lenders visit the British Business Bank website. CBILS can provide facilities of up to £5 million for smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues.

3. Speak with your existing networks: For support on where to go next, it is important to work with those already in your business circle who will know the ins and outs of your company the best such as accountants. If you are a sole trader and are responsible for all aspects of your business, it is worth taking time to re-evaluate your strategy and identify exactly what your customers want from your business at this time. Do they need an online service? Do they require a different service from you during this period?

4. Contact your local Growth Hub: Growth Hubs across the UK provide advice on funding, finance and other support available to businesses within their region – all free of charge.

5. Be adaptable: Professor Hart rallied the importance of adaptability during this challenging period, advising SME leaders to think about their current business model and identify what changes they could make to serve customers in a slightly different way. Joe Fearn has transferred a number of CircusMASH training classes online to which can be accessed remotely.

6. Prioritise your current customers: Don’t be afraid to speak to your current customers and use their feedback to understand what you could do differently, do you need to tweak your model slightly or even change it completely to adapt? Now is the time to prioritise who you have to generate revenue.

7. Contact your local business school: Joe identified the support of Aston Business School’s Centre for Growth, and in particular, the Aston Programme for Small Business Growth as what “will help him through” this crisis – particularly digital adoption guidance. Businesses can get a vast range of support and assistance from their local business school and we encourage them to do so.


For more on how small businesses and business schools are mobilising to face the challenges of COVID-19, you can check out the latest series of episodes from Aston Business School’s in-house podcast, Aston Means Business. You can listen to the entire series for free online here.