Imagine the Titanic has hit that iceberg, there’s a sweep of lifeboats scattered around the ocean held together with flimsy communication cords – and you know not everyone is going to survive. That’s pretty much how it feels right now for most of the businesses in Silicon South’s digital, creative and tech network.
Covid-19 has reared up, seemingly out of nowhere, to turn everything upside down. Staff have shipped out to work from home. Many are facing the uncertainty of furlough (who knew that word two weeks ago!) and, even tougher, it’s not certain that every business has the capacity to make it through to the other side. For the ones that do, it’s not clear what the other side even looks like.
Unsurprisingly, there is no business manual for people to reach for, to help them process the effects of a pandemic. For nearly everyone running a business, it’s been a whirlwind 21 days: Shock – followed by confusion – followed by action – infused with hope and possibly prayer. Business leaders have had to respond as best they can in distinctly uncharted waters.
But where does this leave us? How have businesses reacted and what does the future look like? Silicon South has held several virtual discussion groups, bringing leaders together to compare their experiences, choices and actions. It’s resulted in some open, honest and, at times, painful discussions, which have helped to provide some perspective and insights for everyone involved.
The discussion groups were curated to bring leaders working at similar levels together. It meant they could talk through issues with other people who were facing similar challenges and have been through similar experiences. So far groups have been held for leaders of: 17+employees; 6-16 employees; 1-5 employees, and early stage Tech.
Although each group expressed challenges specific to their size, there were similarities running through all of them. The biggest impact for everyone, since lockdown was announced, highlights the inescapable fact that ‘creative’ is one of the first things to be hit in any major downturn.
Every company has experienced some instance of clients putting on the brakes or cancelling projects, freezing projects mid-delivery or pulling out of existing contracts. Some clients have simply stopped paying, whilst their own future is put under pressure, and, worryingly (for the whole economy), some clients face a real danger they might collapse altogether, if they haven’t already.
The consequences highlight the dependencies and fragility of the supply chain. Perhaps most gutting of all was that business was beginning to pick up after the torrid uncertainties of Brexit. A lot of companies said that March 2020 was on course to be one of the best trading months ever. Of course, we know how that’s panned out.
Positively, after the initial shock subsided, the business community have taken a raft of measures designed to give their businesses the best chance of survival and, more importantly – and something everyone emphasised – the best chance to keep the jobs of the people working within them.
But, as no one reads long articles anymore, I’ll pick this up next week and dive into more of the detail then. It’s not clear where the rescue boats are coming from yet – and it seems like this will go one for months rather than weeks. Positively the leaders are showing a strong response to the alarm and working their hardest to keep the lifeboats afloat with as many people on board as possible.
What action have the leaders taken…
What business models seem to be holding up…
Who’s come out in a stronger position…
What approaches are being taken to protect staff…