It's no secret that successful businesses need to be able to survive - and, more importantly, thrive - in good times and bad. No matter how much you prepare when starting your own business, there will always be something you didn't plan for - as we've all seen this past year, the unexpected could be just around the corner. 

It's not all doom and gloom, though. In this article, we've gathered some of the best small business advice from the Most Adaptive Businesses of 2020 according to QuickBooks UK. Read on to learn how they thrived in challenging times - and how you can too.

1) Change your business plan: adapt to digital 

While it's already a phrase that's been badly overused, it really is worth thinking about what the ‘new normal' might look like. 

One thing that seems to have come out of this year is an increased recognition of the importance of digital - from expanding how people work from home to the increase in online shopping. 

And don't be put off if you think online success is only possible for certain kinds of businesses. The first lockdown hit Ian Davies' restaurant Steak on the Green hard - but he was able to use his knowledge of online business to adjust. Setting up his website, he says, ‘sparked the idea of selling steaks directly to customers' - especially useful ‘at a time when [he] couldn't allow any diners into the restaurant'.

Working with connections he'd built through Steak on the Green, Davies set up an online company called The Steak Shop, which sells pre-cut and portioned steak directly to customers - and the business has already enjoyed great success.

2) Keep your friends close 

It's been more difficult than ever this year to make and maintain close connections. And while personal relationships are, of course, crucial to a happy life, good working relationships are equally important to a successful business. Challenging times can make it easy to forget about colleagues and employees - but you should make sure you don't. 

Alex Payne, founder of the exchange platform The Room, remembers the start of the pandemic: "We were keen that everyone should be in it together and didn't want to let anybody go," he says, "so we shifted to a four-day working week and switched to remote working." This enabled The Room's staff to maintain strong relationships with one another and support each other through the crisis. 

While you might expect this advice from a platform that focuses on making connections, it was a common theme from most of QuickBooks' Most Adaptive Businesses of 2020. No matter your sector, doing right by your people is important - especially when getting second opinions can be crucial to your business' success.

3) Don't stop moving forwards 

Finally, it might sound a little trite, but the most important thing is to not give up. There's nothing wrong with needing financial support, and obviously you don't want to throw good money at bad business ideas. There's a time to call it quits - but that should never be at the first sign of hardship. 

Take Jeremy Stern, for instance, Founder and CEO of PromoVeritas, Europe's leading manager of brand competitions. With so much business ‘centred around events', he says things started to look seriously bad when ‘all of these major events started to fall away'. 

That didn't stop PromoVeritas, though, instead, they instituted a four-day work week, furloughed some workers and focused on moving forwards. Thanks to some smart adaptations, the company was able to recover: "By the end of June everyone who had been furloughed was back at work," says Stern, "and our revenue in September was close to that of the same month last year." 

We hope you've found these pieces of small business advice helpful. There will always be times of struggle when running a business, but with the right attitude and the right opportunities, you can make it through. As the examples in this article show, you don't have to just survive challenging times - you can thrive.