Survival and Resilience: Adapting and learning in an uncertain world

    by Emma Pownall
     17th November 2020

Episode 10 of our Business Futures podcast took a deep dive into the challenges faced by business in 2020 and what changes are needed in order to survive in an uncertain future.

From uncertainty comes opportunity

Sage recently published a report surveying business leaders across the UK to benchmark their view of the economy. The findings show how damaging the pandemic has been, but also clarity over what they needed to do. For instance, 80% of respondents said technology will help their business post lockdown, however only 33% are actively planning investment.  

Hesham El Komy, from Sage is keen to point out the role of technology in business resilience. “15% of the companies that have been surveyed said that they would not survive a second spike. But at the same time, we're seeing a lot of organisations acting very bullish about the future. They're making bold moves to improve processes and productivity. A lot of that is being aided by technology.”

Our clients are making big decisions

We wanted to know how our clients have responded to these challenges, and were taken aback by the level of resilience and ingenuity shown. We spoke to two business leaders, Brian Cape, Chief Executive of schools catering company SIPS Education, and Simon Oliphant, Managing Director of Ufrom, a kitchen components supplier, who both run very different organisations but have both weathered the situation well. 

Simon described strategic plans that needed to be ripped up overnight as lockdown and furlough schemes were introduced. They immediately set up a crisis team who came up with an unusual idea. 

“I contacted our competitors because this is an exceptional circumstance. And as a sector, we decided the best thing would be for all of us to close at the same time.”

This united front was matched with clear communication to their customers, followed by furloughing 90% of the workforce. The remaining team then focused on a new model and planned how to implement it. 

The role of technology

Big decisions need to be made to survive both now and into the future. At Datel, we know how technology is key to future-proofing your organisation and Hesham thinks this message is finally getting through. He firmly believes digital adoption is the only way forward, while conceding there are barriers. “Only a proportion of SME’s have the bandwidth to invest in technology across their key businesses. But without making the right technology changes to your current systems and processes, that's the biggest risk to the longevity of businesses.”

Brian has been taking advantage of IT and using it to drive efficiencies. With clever adjustments, they were able to reduce the size of their workforce while still protecting 98% of jobs. As our client, they utilised the available technology to plug the gaps while improving customer service. Brian explains: “We developed smarter ways of interacting with our customers, getting them to self-serve more rather than pick up the phone for example, and being more scalable and more replicable.”

Simon reiterated how IT is also helping them build resilience - “We're looking at robotics, we're looking at smart factory efficiencies in order to be more lean.”

Long term survival

The pandemic has made our featured leaders make the sort of changes that would have normally have taken years to implement. Amongst many of the agile choices Brian has made, he believes their culture of honesty and communication is the most important. 

“I’m having conversations with the team about what's going on, what the plans are, how we are going to grow the business, what we're doing with regards to the IT. I'm pretty confident that that type of behaviour will see us through.”

We admire how both Brian and Simon have adapted to survive in what has been a tough year for us all. They have shown that bright ideas, backed up by technology, is what successful business needs. Hesham agrees, adding that if there was one key take away from all of this it would be to get your data systems in place. Better data provides better visibility and insight into your business, and that is going to help you make the right decisions. He adds: “In such uncertain times, none of us know what's coming around the corner, we don't have a crystal ball. But what technology enables organisations to do is adapt and be agile, which is key to survival.”