One of the things this pandemic has taught us is that financial forecasting has largely gone out of the window; most business owners are surviving week by week, knowing how much they need to spend and earn to keep their livelihoods.
Some of these companies will be lossmaking in their first quarter before revenues start to even out with improved customer confidence and an improving job market.
A recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that SME confidence for sustainability and growth is at its highest level since 2014.
The FSB’s poll of 1,684 small businesses in March this year found that more than half of SMEs expected their revenues to grow over the next three months, the highest proportion since the summer of 2015 – this is really great to hear and let’s hope it is achievable.
Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said banks have offered around £29.3bn in business loans over the past year.
There are many signs of optimism, and we certainly need them. The disruption and isolation of the past year has alerted many of us to make personal and professional resolutions, and re-evaluate our lives.
When I launched X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) in 2013, I followed my instincts, but just three years later I attributed the success of XFE to collaborating with others, testing and exchanging ideas.
Within this network you’ll meet likeminded people as well as finding friendly rivalries, advisers, investors and potential employees, many of which I can attest has already happened through our networks.
We all need a structure that not only equips people to become entrepreneurs (and indeed intrapreneurs) but also provides valuable experience in an industry or sector which helps to foster the best possible outcome. Our joint motto has to be that we look after each other; it’s about leadership, yes, but it’s also about not leaving anyone behind.
A good example of this is XFE’s Business Captain support scheme for people who provide peer to peer support to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and growth businesses.
Another good example of working together came in February when I was part of an online audience for the launch of the Beacon Collaborative (BC) report. The report is encouraging government and policy makers to consider philanthropy and social investment as a key element of the UK’s future international trade strategy.
Keith MacDonald, the UK Head of Wealth at Ernst & Young (EY) commented that the UK is a great place for philanthropy and social investment, but it can be even better. With changes to policy, regulation, and the national mindset, the UK can become the undisputed global centre of excellence. Keith is right, of course.
As someone who has supported many social enterprises, I believe we are entering another golden age of philanthropy. As an example, we could create a major social enterprise fund for the large proportion of businesses that choose to give back to the community – donors would then have a greater say in what happens to the profits they help generate.
Earlier this year, I launched my own collaborative project Charter 21, which aims to restore our economy and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. We are already looking at how we can help many more individuals become entrepreneurs and understand enterprise skills for intrapreneurship for those seeking employment. These skills really do matter and we can acquire them, for sure I think we will be ebbing between the two as careers change and evolve.
Of course, the philosophy of social good can be implemented in any country and on every continent – it’s just what John Studzinski did when he founded the Genesis Foundation 20 years ago; he looked first at how India was engaging in philanthropy and took their blueprint worldwide.
My ambition is to do the same with our business blueprint and indeed this is already being replicated for X-Emergency Services which has already supported almost 1,000 people. In previous years we have successfully worked with the Home Office and the Government’s then Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, now BEIS.
We know our blueprint works. It has a tried and tested history. Three years after the launch of XFE, we published our six pillars of business philosophy – “Imagine If” – which focus on the betterment of society and the business landscape through greater opportunity, networking, sustainability, and organic growth. Yes, business is about competence and character but it also needs people in leadership roles who care about others and enthuse the whole business by the quality of relationships that they instill.
The pandemic has revealed some of our best behaviours, increasing levels of empathy towards others and many of us have recognised aspects of our lives, once thought significant, that no longer seem as important.
Overall, society is experiencing a great reconsidering of priorities, the lasting effects of which will not only be personal, but economic, and there is a lot of creativity and altruism out there. We have the opportunity to reframe the place of business in society, and as a social entrepreneur, I am grateful, humbled, and energised with how many people I have in my life who share this vision for a better society.
There are lots of exciting things upcoming in the Charter 21 calendar. To stay up to date, please see the regular posts on my LinkedIn. https://bit.ly/2PQo4te