Survive or thrive? It’s time for businesses to take stock

Posted 03.12.2020

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” sang Billy Ocean in the 1980s.

During 2020, the cap has fitted more snugly than ever – particularly when it comes to small businesses in the midst of the pandemic.

A year ago, company owners were planning for a very different year from the one which has played out.

Remember the endless use of “2020 vision”? None would have involved a worldwide fight for survival.

In the UK alone, tens of thousands of companies have failed but where there is risk there is often opportunity. Online grocery shopping and retail, DIY stores, streaming services and medical suppliers have reported big spikes in sales.

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.

“Rigorous planning has been key,” says Martin Brown, Chief Executive of growth advisory firm Elephants Child, which is working with St. James’s Place to help small and medium-sized enterprises survive the crisis.

“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,” he added.

Mr Brown advocates honesty and resilience among business leaders along with a rolling 90-day plan during uncertain times

“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, “ he said.

Professional insight and advice can also help. St. James’s Place Entrepreneur Club and Elephants Child, for example, are able to step back to develop a holistic view of a business in order to determine what actions it needs to take to grow and develop further.

Wherever business leaders are in their journey, professional support can help them identify and articulate their core strategy and aspirations, develop – and adapt – their short- and long-term operating plans and explore avenues for raising finance,