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Disruptive Minds: 2022 priorities – how can SMEs ensure they stay afloat?

The first ‘Disruptive Minds’ webinar hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and Vodafone covered the topic of priorities for SMEs in 2022 and investigated how they can ensure that they stay afloat.   

Entering into a new year is often a time for reflection, for both individuals and organisations. Many businesses look back on their previous year, identifying positive and negative events, and impacts that may have caused these experiences, and from this will create priorities and focus points for the year ahead. 

The last two years have had an effect on all businesses, especially SMEs – with Covid restrictions causing the most problems over the last year. Whether it be making changes to the workforce, supply chain issues, shop closures, etc. Looking ahead, many SMEs’ main focus for this year will be to readjust to life as we go back to normal, get back on their feet, and simply stay afloat.

Francesca James, founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards held this Disruptive Minds session with five members of our taskforce – Dave Linton, Nohman Ahmed, Abigail Baldwin, Rimi Thapar and Joe Binder to identify how SMEs can focus on staying afloat this year, and overcoming the hurdles they are facing in the aftermath of Covid-19. 

Don’t follow the cultural influence

When discussing how the pandemic affected each founder and their business Dave Linton, founder of Madlug, was the first to admit that they struggled. “People stopped buying our bags because nobody was traveling, and that is our main source of funding our social impact as a business”, he said. At this time Dave decided he was going to keep his team alive and stay positive, “I kept telling the team let’s get creative let’s think outside the box here and let’s see any sense of loss as a lesson”

And six months later, after seeing a loss, Dave had a call from IKEA, saying that they wanted to give every member of staff a Madlug bag, which of course was a huge win. “ If we had stopped, we would never have been able to deliver on that,” he explained. “Don’t always follow the cultural influence, because if I did, the cultural influence would have stopped me, and we probably wouldn’t be here today because of that. So the challenge is that you just have to be really in tune and know that business changes” he advised.

Adapting to consumer behaviours

Joe Binder, founder of WOAW,  added to this by discussing how the pandemic affected his business and the changes he had to make to stay afloat, “We were working on a really big online campaign, then suddenly the client had to pull out because of the loss of their revenue, which had a domino effect on us. My main focus was trying to figure out a way of bringing in new clients and keeping hold of current ones. One of the advantages of the pandemic, however, was that many people moved to strategise online, which is where my services were needed.” 

Nohman Ahmed, Co-Founder of Crep Protect, expressed how the changes in retail had a knock-on effect on their business. “Unfortunately we rely a lot on retail, so for us, we really had to take the time out to plan that when retail returned back to normal, consumer behaviours would have changed. Someone who usually buys in-store now buys online, so for us, it was looking at how we drive the consumer back to stores.”

“Luckily for us, we have been a global sensation, so we were allowed to be secure, but it just gave us a chance to understand we can’t continue to do the same thing every single day. It’s about being invested, being innovative, and really disrupting the industry”. 

Preparing for the worst-case scenario

Rimi Thapar, founder of LoveRaw, discussed how having plans set in place for the future, and worst-case scenarios can help save your business, reiterating Nohmans fact that businesses need to be resilient and resourceful.

“The pandemic was a huge shock to society, and something that we have not had to deal with in most of our lifetimes, so being able to fight back against the changes taking place, and stay afloat was really hard for many, including businesses like LoveRaw who were relatively new on the scene.” 

“We had plans for our direct consumer model in 2023, which we brought forward. So we pretty much went online, straight away. We also used social ambassadors which helped us bolt forward as well, so we use social media as a platform to get out to consumers and also build our brand” she said. 

The importance of human connection

“Even before the pandemic hit we had plans about working from home, so we had systems in place to enable us to work from home easily. We use Slack and Asana, and had technology in place, but it was just the uncertainty that hit us. It was all about reassuring our team that we were going to keep going. We introduced a daily meeting where we spoke about positivity and introduced challenges to keep up morale. Checking in on each other was really important in succeeding through the pandemic” says Rimi.

Abigail Baldwin, Co-founder of Buttercrumble, agreed with Rimi’s comments on teamwork and work culture being one of the most important factors in your business thriving. “I do think to build culture it’s really important to have face to face connection, although tech has been a lifesaver, I don’t think it can ever replace the human connection. We were always keen to have our studio space as somewhere for people to connect, whilst keeping everyone safe at the same time. It’s really important to talk to your team members, and check in on them” she said. 

Overall, the conversation found that it’s important for brands to be versatile and as ahead of the game as possible, by implementing strategies and services that allow you to reach your audience in any situation is vital in staying afloat. However, it is also important to not follow the crowd. As a business owner, you should take into consideration your key values, goals and culture to ensure that your business succeeds from the inside out. 

To find out more about how SMEs can stay afloat in 2022, from expert founders, watch the full session here. 

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for expert advice and insights into how SMEs are navigating their way in 2022, make sure to sign up for the next Disruptive Minds event ‘Mental health in SMEs – how can you make wellbeing a priority in small businesses’ on Thursday 12th May at 11:00am BST. Secure your free space here.