With uncertainty the only thing of which business can be certain, the best defence is scenario-based continuity planning.
“The world that emerges post pandemic will be different in many ways,” says risk and resilience expert Dr Sandra Bell. “There will be an increased use of technology, greater emphasis on health awareness and a rethink of hyper-extended global supply chains. All of these offer opportunities for small businesses. Downtime during lockdown offers a great opportunity to regroup, re-evaluate and plan for how to turn these changes into advantages.”
Flexibility should be every company’s new motto, in staffing and working practices; in the ability to hold, acquire and release stock; and in ways to funnel resource where it is most needed at any given time. Running a more agile business will require focus on sizing, eliminating waste in every function.
At some point, perhaps gradually at first, life will begin to return to a new normal. When this happens, it is important we are all well positioned to support the economic recovery of the UK.
“Build resilience through agility,” advises Darren Jukes, UK leader of industry for industrial manufacturing and services at PwC. “Introduce digital supply chain solutions for the early detection of end-to-end issues. Embed and integrate data-driven systems that provide actionable business insights. Consider reducing office space in anticipation of ongoing flexible and home working.”
Diversification was a growing trend among SMEs before the advent of coronavirus, and will be even more relevant in the wake of the crisis. The ability to transfer production techniques; offer alternative product lines; and utilise employee skill sets in innovative ways will open up new marketplaces, and create more robust business models.
Greater localisation is another likely outcome of the lockdown, influencing where people work and where they source products and services from. When the supermarket shelves emptied, local shops had supplies. Independent tradespeople came to the rescue when the big companies furloughed workers. People became more embedded in their communities through not commuting. By contrast, complex global supply chains were revealed as vulnerabilities, and consumers grew more inventive in sourcing essentials.
“The crisis will prompt greater consideration for dual and near sourcing, with a focus on localised supply chains, and potentially drawing on suppliers traditionally tied to other industry sectors,” says Jukes.
We have tentatively begun the process of turning the dial from reactive to proactive, from crisis management to planning how we might thrive in the post-coronavirus world.
“The business community needs to use the tools at its disposal to create time and space to roll through the current market turmoil,” says Fraser Hern. “Now is the time to focus on getting to the new normal in as robust a state as possible.”