Yesterday we saw Boris Johnson announce a significant easing of current lockdown measures. Businesses across the UK have been given the go ahead to reopen after over three months of closure. It’s a crucial moment in restarting a huge section of Britain’s economy, and will have come as some form of relief for many business owners. While it may not solve all our problems, it at least gives us all a little more control over what we can do where, when and how close to others.
We surveyed over 2000 UK business owners last week about how they felt in the current climate. Their businesses ranged in size from just one or two employees to companies of over 250, with a minimum turnover of £100,000 and some taking over £25 million. We found that many are starting to feel a little more hopeful across all industries – from arts and culture to transport and construction. Let’s take a look at the results.
Business owners feel out of control – but not entirely
In the survey, we asked business owners how ‘in control’ they felt. 35% said they felt a little out of control because it’s hard to know what’s happening next. Really, who can blame them? Until the Prime Minister announced the official reopening of many British businesses, we weren’t even sure when we’d get our next haircut.
Even though almost a third of those surveyed said they felt totally out of control, almost the same number felt they had some level of control. And interestingly, 15% felt they were in total control. With such a spread of answers, while it’s clear we’re far from all feeling entirely certain about the future, we absolutely don’t feel hopeless.
The easing of lockdown should bring back a greater degree of certainty to many. Hopefully now that we have a concrete date set for the reopening of much of the hospitality and arts industries (4th July) and the 2m rule has been relaxed, those who were less confident down to a lack of certainty will be slightly more encouraged.
It’s significant that nearly half of these business owners believe there’s pent up demand for their products or services for after lockdown, even if most are expecting a modest increase of 10% in the next 3-4 months. What’s important is that the current climate is feeling more temporary than it had been and no longer all doom and gloom.
In fact, those in sales and marketing as well as professional services are some of the most confident about a return to business, which should hopefully indicate that they’re expecting budgets for their services to return. France’s business climate indicator saw its largest monthly gain since it began in 1980, rising 18 points to 78 this month. This follows the mass reopening of businesses, including restaurants and cafés, at the start of June. The sector that saw the most significant jump of 25 points was business services, which indicates healthy expectations.
Size doesn’t matter
Running a small business can be intimidating and stressful at the best of times. A global pandemic may make it feel like only the largest corporations have a chance of survival, but we don’t believe that’s the case. With the Government’s economic measures like furloughing staff, not paying business rates and introducing grants or loans, many businesses have been able survive the past three months.
What comes next is an opportunity to use the lessons we’ve learnt from lockdown, like the creative pivots and huge progress we’ve all seen in e-commerce and digital services, to take back control and continue stronger.
While we’re not all about to jump straight back into normality (whatever that now means), things are certainly changing. Working out cost saving measures on rental leases and focusing on a core team may allow businesses more opportunities to thrive.
Ultimately, we’re all in this together, regardless of size. It merely depends on the boat and crew you have to weather the storm – bigger is not always better.
Younger people are more comfortable with crisis
Of those who answered that they felt most ‘in control’, those under 34 and over 60 came up as most in control. The ages in between felt the greatest degree of uncertainty, but it should be seen as encouraging that those with those most experience in business and those with the most to learn feel least concerned.
A sense of powerlessness increased during the middle age bracket, and the trend is consistent across industries. The figures indicating younger and older groups felt more confident were the same across the board in terms of company size, too. So it isn’t simply a question of who has the most growth behind them.
Perhaps this is because young people’s risk appetite (or naivety) is greater, but it’s worth noting all the same as this group will be the leaders of tomorrow. With a generation that has undergone the toughest economic moment of their lifetime, we can all try to feel hopeful about the state of business in the future.
Flexibility of the office
We’ve covered the adaptations and evolutions of the office environment that we’re currently living and expecting to experience – in terms of physical space as well as contractually. The main consensus is that the way we approach and conceive of our working space and time is fluctuating.
Making the most of the increased flexibility is paramount; it should be seen as a silver lining unique to our situation. Business owners who can create a modern and productive environment that promotes collaborative growth can thank COVID-19 for the accelerated arrival.
Businesses have had to change, and so will our spaces and interactions in every industry. We’ll be dealing with the nuance of this world for a little while to come, but every crisis and failure provides opportunity and the space for growth. Businesses, and business leaders, that are meant to succeed will find their way.
Opportunities will always be there. The most important thing right now is to stay on top of government guidelines and how your customers’ behaviour changes in relation to them. This should bring at least some sense of certainty.
For more articles about how you can weather the COVID-19 storm head here.