The road to recovery for Britain’s SMEs

Marc Yaffe

By Marc Yaffe, Partner and Head of Commercial Litigation at JMW Solicitors
Over the last 20 years, I have advised hundreds of SMEs on a range of issues that threaten their business – I thought I’d seen most things, but being asked to advise clients on the plethora of issues arising from a global pandemic has been an unfortunate, unique and eye-opening challenge.

I must say, and this may be down to our sheer Northern grit and refusal to be beaten, I have been inspired by the overwhelming sense of resilience, dynamism and optimism that pervades our SME market.

SMEs are the backbone of the British economy and will play a central role in our post-Covid recovery. The pandemic has been a shock to the system for every business, large or small, but there has been a significant disparity in how hard those knocks have hit and the impact on future prospects.

The virus has polarised the SME market, helping some industries immeasurably, but hindering and decimating many others with equal vigour.

While the e-commerce market has seen a huge surge in sales and demand as a result of the stay at home orders (especially for brands supplying home gym equipment, DIY, and even loungewear), others, such as hospitality, leisure operators and events businesses, have been torn to shreds.

One of the most important considerations for SMEs as they look towards recovery is to look at their people – they are the heartbeat of any business, regardless of industry.

Many have been asked to dig deep, do more for less, and be more impactful whilst dealing with the very human challenges that affect their day to day lives.

For those that have risen to the challenge (and I am fortunate to say that so many of my team have done so) we must remember and celebrate their endeavor.

The pandemic should have opened our eyes to the sheer talent and agility of our colleagues.

It’s true that uncertainty and upheaval has tested everyone’s workforce, but it has also seen many people shine through even the darkest of days.

At JMW, we have been impressed by people’s willingness to step up to the plate – and it isn’t always the people you expect.

The pandemic also gave SMEs a view of how well their team responds and reacts to a crisis, utilising problem solving, creativity and resilience.

Those are valuable skills that will serve businesses well as they focus on recovery over the coming months.

Another positive by-product of the pandemic has been the ingenuity displayed by thousands of brands and businesses that have adapted their services, sometimes pivoting overnight, while devising new solutions and ideas to take their business in a different direction.

We have seen so many unique, creative solutions that have thrived in a challenging operating environment.

The last 12 months have been extremely difficult for SMEs of all shapes and sizes – but the most exciting innovations often come out of adversity.

While there are countless hurdles to jump on the road to recovery, SMEs will benefit from their resilience and agility, along with the wider economic changes that are taking place, including the moves toward making the UK more self-sufficient.

The businesses that will thrive are those that are willing to embrace change, with the drive and determination to turn their business into something more than it was before.

So, my message is simple: Embrace change, be agile and creative, be forward-thinking when addressing the new ‘normal’ but, most importantly, keep inspiring your employees, customers, clients and competitors with that Northern Spirit.