PLAN A, the Small Business Support Initiative, is Launched

Small businesses in difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic are invited to join PLAN A, the new social initiative. Businesses registered in the project are invited to take advantage of the project partners' offers such as financial services, free advertising, discounts.

The project was initiated by Šiaulių bankas, and Vilnius City Municipality and Versli Lietuva also joined the initiative. One of the first to join was a well-known journalist, writer and public figure Andrius Tapinas.

Socially responsible companies, public authorities, non-governmental organizations, all who are willing and able to help small businesses survive a difficult economic period are invited to join PLAN A and offer their support to small businesses.

"The Lithuanian economy withstood the first blow of the pandemic, but the threats remain high. It is especially difficult for small businesses that do not have accumulated financial reserves and are dependent on multiple customers. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Lithuanian economy, therefore the PLAN A initiative aims to help businesses to maintain the path of growth, i.e. that there was no need to change the existing plans to plan B or C. We present a unique platform in Lithuania, where participating small companies can take advantage of a special package of benefits, and socially responsible initiative partners contribute by offering their assistance to small businesses”, said Vytautas Sinius, CEO of Šiaulių bankas.

Vilnius City Municipality, which joined the project, published its list of business support measures to combat the consequences of the pandemic at the beginning of May. The 4x3 plan includes measures that are already being implemented in the capital.

"We are all feeling the effects of the pandemic, but a few months of downtime or restrictions can be devastating for small businesses. We must therefore use all the possibilities and all the means to help survive this difficult phase. The help of the municipality and national institutions and the solidarity of the people are very important”, says Vilnius’ Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

Pandemic blow

According to the data of the Department of Statistics, there are about 87 thousand SMEs in Lithuania, which together employ almost 700 thousand workers. The share of SMEs is 99.5% of the entire Lithuanian economy, they employ almost 72 per cent workers. As much as 83 per cent SMEs are very small, which employ up to 10 employees. According to the data of Lithuanian entrepreneurship trends assessment by Versli Lietuva, SMEs generate about two thirds of Lithuania's gross domestic product, so it is obvious that the importance of this economic segment for the development of the Lithuanian economy is particularly high.

"This shows that the entrepreneurship of the Lithuanian population is constantly growing as more and more people are starting a business and starting it as small entrepreneurs. But we are also seeing a trend that is not so encouraging, because businesses are not growing to turn into larger companies. The Lithuanian SME chain in the economy is very important, but at the same time very sensitive to any risk factors. One of them is the global pandemic, quarantine and, as a result, changing consumer habits. A business that wants to survive needs to transform, innovate its business models and adapt to new market conditions, therefore, help for business growth and increase competitiveness is needed”, says Daina Kleponė, CEO of Versli Lietuva.

According to D. Kleponė, since the first day of quarantine, Lithuanian business has not been left to its fate, Versli Lietuva was the first to extend a helping hand with the initiative "There is no quarantine on the Internet", providing wide opportunities for Lithuanian business to digitize business quickly, start e-trade, raise e-commercial competencies. "We join new business support initiatives together with partners to achieve the same goal, to mitigate the possible consequences of new threats for SMEs, help manage risks, remain strong and preserve the stable backbone of the Lithuanian economy”, notes D. Kleponė.

The public wants coordinated help

To mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, the government has approved the economics promotion plan worth EUR 5 billion, however the survey data shows that these efforts alone are not enough.

According to the public opinion poll commissioned by Šiaulių bankas, as many as 91 per cent of Lithuanian residents claim that it is currently necessary to help SMEs, but as much as 76 per cent of respondents stress that the state currently pays too little attention and assistance to SMEs.

The majority of respondents (92%) particularly emphasize that aid to SMEs must be united, i.e. joint efforts of the state, business and population are required. In addition, an absolute majority (93%) of the respondents state that SMEs should be able to access assistance readily, i.e. without complicated procedures.

PLAN A: How it works

Small and medium-sized enterprises can join the PLAN A initiative by filling in the registration form on the website www.planas-a.lt. This website will contain information about all the proposals of the project partners and the benefits that will be available to the small businesses participating in the initiative. All small businesses can register for the initiative.

PLAN A is an open platform for both small businesses seeking help and partners with ideas and opportunities to help small businesses. Therefore, Šiaulių bankas invites partners to join the PLAN A initiative: socially responsible companies, which can help SMEs with their services, discounts and free advertising. Governmental authorities, municipalities and socially responsible business are also invited.