The second part of our “Thriving in Uncertainty” podcast series explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on entrepreneurs and their enterprises as they move from crisis phase into longer term management for sustainability. 

Professors Monder Ram and Eleanor Shaw are joined by two entrepreneurs from the creative and housing sector, with very different experiences of operating a business under Covid-19. 

Susan Aktemel is founder of Homes for Good, the UK’s first social enterprise letting agency.  Ammo Talwar is founder of Punch Records, a Birmingham-based music and arts organisation which tours artists, commissions festivals and works with emerging artists.

Crisis Management to Long-Term Survival

The entrepreneurs discuss their approach to leadership in the early stages of the crisis and how this has evolved as they look ahead to longer-term management of the situation.  Key points covered include:

  • The need to flex leadership styles at different stages of the pandemic
  • Management of staff over the period and uptake of the Government’s furlough scheme. 
  • Steps taken to scenario plan for the short and long term
  • The approach of other organisations within their sector
  • Difficulty of sustaining the rapid pace of change required in the longer term

Throughout discussion, the entrepreneurs stress the importance of placing people at heart of every decision made.

Change for the Better?

The group then reflect on opportunities arising from Covid-19 to change the entrepreneurial support landscape for the better.  They highlight the need to stop and re-evaluate how an enterprise’s contribution is measured.

The group question whether the traditional measure of GDP is overly narrow, suggesting that a wider view which considers an enterprise’s impact on its community and wellbeing should be taken by government and support organisations when deciding who and what to invest in.

Advice and support

The group outline the different types of support on offer to entrepreneurs during the Covid-19 pandemic, exploring the advantages of more readily accessible ‘bounce back loans’ available at the beginning of the outbreak versus the more difficult to access funding available longer term.

Interesting questions are raised around:

  • The need for businesses to ensure they have a plan in place for paying back money borrowed
  • The effectiveness of assessment measures in determine who to fund
  • The tendency to fund ‘the usual suspects’ and the need to ensure funding opportunities are available to all types of organisations
  • Ensuring longer term support is available

Throughout discussion the group highlight the need to shift focus from compliance and regulation to trust and autonomy to ensure entrepreneurs have the freedom, flex and agility they need to do what is best for their business.

Lessons Learned

The entrepreneurs reflect on lessons learned over the last 9 months.  They highlight the following as being important in allowing businesses to continue to “thrive in uncertainty”:

  • Having a cash safety net to fall back on in the event that day to day trading stops
  • Having partners and investors that are well aligned to the vision and values of your enterprise
  • Having clear leadership to provide support and guidance to staff
  • Regularly undertaking a PESTLE analysis

You can access part 1 of the Thriving Uncertainty series here :