No one can say they were truly prepared for Covid-19 and the impact that it has had, but some businesses have coped much better than others in recent months.
Some companies, such as online supermarkets and DIY stores, streaming services and detergent manufacturers, naturally saw a spike in sales. Alongside that, many smaller companies found they had a unique advantage over corporations: they had the agility to rapidly tweak or re-engineer their business models to meet the changing needs of their customers.
That is the major advantage of the small business; they can make a plan today and execute it tomorrow. The ability to adapt is fundamental to a small business. Their velocity helps them to pivot and take advantage of new opportunities, and outstrip their competitors. Whether it’s a carmaker making ventilators or a butcher teaming up with a baker to launch a delivery service, we have seen incredible innovation from the nation’s SMEs.
Just as there are well known stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – business leaders have typically experienced three phases of reaction to the coronavirus. The first phase saw many business leaders going to ground. They felt overwhelmed. During the second phase, businesses were beginning to make sense of trading under lockdown and were accessing government support. In more recent months, we have seen the third phase, where leaders are seeing growth opportunities, raising money and committing to getting out of this crisis. Rigorous planning has been key. Most business leaders realised quickly that without a plan they would have to make redundancies and lose sales. Planning prevents leaders from drifting blindly into the worst outcome. I recommend all business operate on a rolling 90-day plan during uncertain times. Things are changing too quickly for a three-year or even one-year business plan. This type of planning helps to quantify and manage uncertainty, turning it into its more manageable cousin: risk.
Beyond rigorous planning, strong leadership has been critical during the crisis. A leader needs two things right now: resilience and honesty. The first is crucial to business survival: competent leaders create positivity and drive businesses forward despite the challenging situation. Honesty is also important. This means being upfront with staff, customers, investors and stakeholders about the impact of COVID-19 on the business. Only then can leaders access the support they need to keep going. If you are true to yourself and your values, and do what you say you are going to do, people will engage with you and your business more readily. It’s about understanding your own concerns and frailties and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. These times have taught us that’s it’s okay not to have all the answers, but you need to be prepared to adapt quickly.
For more information about we can help SMEs plan their way to survive and thrive please get in touch.