To describe the last few weeks as hugely difficult for small businesses across the Square Mile, London and the UK would be an understatement.
My colleagues at the City Business Library, which is situated in the Guildhall complex, have really come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic. The library building may be temporarily closed, but it is very much ‘open for business’ in the truest sense of the phrase.
Within a few weeks of the lockdown commencing, a raft of valuable online services has been adapted and offered to ensure that SMEs and start-up businesses have the support that they need during these uncertain times.
For example, the library is offering free 30-minute ‘bitesize’ video meetings with the Business Adviser Team for anyone needing advice and guidance about how to start a business. Usually a paid-for service, this may particularly benefit those who have been furloughed and have been considering their future prospects.
The library’s webpages have been updated to include a Covid-19 page specifically for SME support and information during the current lockdown.
Highlighting Covid-19 industry reports, financial support, and central government links, it also reminds people that they can get data remotely with a CBL membership.
The library is also playing an important role in supporting London boroughs with access to company data to help them engage with eligible local businesses about Covid-19 business grants.
Indeed, membership of the library (which, it is fair to say, enjoys a loyal following in the City and beyond) opens up a wealth of business data; and during the lockdown, the library’s members are continuing to gain remote access to a wide range of information to enable them to use their time at home to undertake business research.
Library staff are also emailing key information, on customers’ request, to help them sift through the data and to make tangible future decisions for their businesses.
The library has been working with database suppliers in order to get market information to their business customers while the service is temporarily closed.
Within hours of emailing members about the service, the library’s team received over 40 requests from City businesses for Covid-19 impact statements, as well as requests from other local authorities to share this data with their local business networks.
On a final note, City Business Library is working with the Greater London Authority to support the Mayor of London’s ‘Pay It Forward London’ initiative, which aims to support small businesses in securing much-needed funds via through the Crowdfunder website – www.crowdfunder.co.uk
At the heart of this admirable scheme is a call for communities to support their local businesses by providing cash donations, in return for vouchers, goods, or services post-lockdown.
My regret that the City Business Library is temporarily closed, in common with many of our other public-facing services, is balanced with huge praise for how the team is working hard to support businesses in the City and beyond during the lockdown.
If you need their assistance, they are ready to help you, and I wish you good fortune with your endeavours.