Small Business Britain: The Continuing Impact of COVID-19
By Charlotte Keenan
Small businesses are the drivers of innovation and the backbone of our economy. The uncertainty of the pandemic and repeated lockdowns have been incredibly hard for these entrepreneurs.
We have spent time speaking to our 10,000 Small Businesses UK community to understand the impact of COVID-19 and to check the pulse of small business Britain.
Despite the significant challenges the pandemic has presented, small business leaders remain resilient and in many cases have been able to prosper, setting an optimistic tone for the future. 88% of 10KSB UK graduates feel assured about the state of their business and 78% feel confident about the future. Whilst the pandemic has impacted turnover, there are pockets of significant growth; nearly a third of businesses have increased their revenue, including 14% who have managed to grow by more than 20%. In addition to these positive findings on turnover, there is an encouraging narrative on jobs: 58% of 10KSB graduates have maintained or increased headcount through the pandemic, with half of businesses expecting to create new jobs in the next 12 months and only 8% expecting to make further cuts.
In spite of the difficulties the third lockdown has presented, these findings paint a positive picture for the months ahead. As small businesses stay resilient and look to innovate in the months ahead, a number of key themes emerged from our conversations that are front of mind:
1. Mental Health: Small business leaders describe feeling ‘exhausted and shell-shocked’ in the wake of COVID-19, with entrepreneurs stressing the need for time out, better work-life balance and perspective. We know leading a small business can be a lonely place - these high-growth champions should be supported to focus on their own resilience and encouraged to speak openly about mental health.
2. The New Workplace: Many leaders identified managing and motivating teams remotely and anxiety around the new workplace as a key challenge. Whilst many businesses have continued to operate as normal, for a large number the ‘office’ they return to will look very different to the one they left. Small businesses need clear advice and support on how to unleash the potential benefits this presents and how to manage the transition for their employees.
3. 3. Innovation: In our last 10KSB UK survey, 45% of graduates had pivoted their business, with nearly three quarters envisaging this to be a permanent shift. The innovation of the last 12 months has changed the small business landscape in ways we are only beginning to understand. The businesses who continue to be nimble and creative are the ones who will power our economic recovery. We must ensure their ingenuity is recognised and rewarded with the support and finance that is vital to maximising their growth.
Whilst there are still incredible challenges ahead, there is significant opportunity as we rebuild and reshape our economy. Small businesses are fundamental to our recovery and we all have a role to play in in converting their optimism in to tangible growth.
Learn more in our latest infographic.
Charlotte Keenan is head of our Office of Corporate Engagement International .