Business leaders worried that the pandemic is hurting agility in their companies

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A new survey has revealed business attitudes to agility and measured the impact of the pandemic.

Howard Kennedy’s Agility Survey polls business sentiment among SMEs and larger enterprises and compares attitudes towards agility and business decision making before the pandemic in 2019 and during the pandemic in 2020.

It was produced in collaboration with Censuswide and YouGov.

Some of the stand-out findings were.

• Covid-19 has catalysed a growth in importance of agility for businesses in a range of sectors. 82% of respondents consider agility important to their future when polled in 2020; compared to 66% in 2019;

• Protecting agility is an issue for businesses of all sizes, and Covid-19 has increased concern over its potential loss with business growth – 40% of respondents were worried about this in November 2019 compared with 61% in September 2020. Larger businesses are relatively more likely to be concerned about losing agility with growth than smaller businesses, indicating that the experience of growing teaches businesses to prize agility.

• Customers are the greatest drivers of agility, as businesses keep pace with their demands and technology is ranked as the most important investment for companies in order to protect agility, followed by investment in marketing, developing new products or diversifying the business;

• Financing options are increasingly likely to be looked at through the lens of their impact on agility. Businesses identified significant differences in the perceived impact finance routes might have on business agility, with a clear preference expressed for the autonomy and speed of access that using retained profits or funds from existing owners will have over bank lending, private equity, venture capital or listing on the stock market.

• Perhaps the most notable shift in the drive for agility relates to relationships with investors. Prior to the pandemic, primary shareholders were a key motivation the focus for SMEs now appears to have redirected to potential investors or buyers of the company demonstrating a shift in attitudes towards divestment.

Gill White, Partner at Howard Kennedy comments: “The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of nimble reactions and an innovative mindset for businesses. Over the last year businesses have had to demonstrate extreme agility in how they operate in order to survive – enabling remote working or changed environments, offering diversified products and services and targeting new customers.

“We see the benefits of this amongst our own clients and we’re inspired by how many will continue to benefit from the agility honed during the COVID-19 period in the post-pandemic world.”

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