“Improvise, adapt and overcome.” So said Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge, quoted to me by the phenomenal Clare Talbot Jones, founder of Chartered Insurance Broker Talbot Jones Ltd.
Clare practices what she preaches, or in this case what Gunny preaches. 2020 has thrown just about everything at small businesses and it requires us all to dig a little deeper – and perhaps move off plan to find a way through. For Clare, that is adjusting ways and places of working, exploring new opportunities with export and the Kickstart scheme, and using all the digital tools available to her to connect with customers and continue to build her business.
We all need to be a bit more Clare it seems. Winter is certainly not going to bring any easing of the challenges of 2020. More lockdowns, reduced footfall on high streets, reduced consumer spend and cautious business spend all bring challenges for entrepreneurs and will need a new approach to get through.
Small Business Britain’s Resilience research with TSB has found that improvising and adapting, both in action and in mindset, are the key things helping small businesses through. The plans put in place early 2020 are now so wildly out of date that throwing them out and making up new plans on the fly is now a more prudent approach. Being able to change the way we think as small businesses will be a lifeline to get through to 2021.
Of course, the impact of the pandemic has not been uniform across sectors and we have seen devastating impact on hospitality, events and travel businesses. Finding hope in this landscape has been hard, but A Wee Pedal, Edinburgh based bicycle business run by Leanne Farmer, has found just that.
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Buoyed by not one but two award wins this year, Leanne credits that underlying belief in what she is doing to keeping her going. Leanne says, “My advice to small businesses is don’t give up on it. Find new ways around it. Keen an open mind. And promote on social media lots!”
This creativity sits at the heart of entrepreneurship. Finding news ways to solve problems is absolutely what small businesses do and have done for all time. They are at the centre of innovation in the UK and likely the place that the future of business post-pandemic will find its roots.
But this continued effort is a lot to ask. Small businesses have been told not to give up, to “pivot”, to learn new skills all year long with very little light at the end of the tunnel. We do as a sector need to dig deep and it is no small ask. However, seeing businesses like Clare’s and Leanne’s pressing forward is surely encouraging to those who do not see a way forward this winter.
Improvising and adapting is necessary for all businesses. Doing it on your own however is not. There is a lot of support out there for businesses right now – and not just government financial support. There is a lot going on and small businesses do not need to look far to find it. Whether it is one to one mentoring on The Tour 2020, digital skills training from Google Garage and BT Skills for Tomorrow to get you going online, or the support of a vibrant and collaborative community like Enterprise Nation, there is no need to improvise and adapt in isolation.
Small businesses can adapt and overcome the challenges of 2020 and move into 2021 with hope that there is a future to be had.