By Charlie Mullins OBE, Founder and Chairman of Pimlico
There are, of course, no winners from this current situation. However, I am constantly impressed with the indomitable spirit of entrepreneurs to battle through the coronavirus emergency.
We are all making our way through unchartered waters; it is how we work, wherever possible, to avoid the rocks and prevent our businesses from running aground.
In such a devastating economic environment it will be inevitable there will be losses from the UK’s near six million SMEs businesses. At the same time, there are tales of innovation and perseverance, which we should, as an entrepreneurial community, be exceptionally proud.
As an entrepreneur who has been through several recessions, I can say, first-hand, that it takes some neat footwork to adjust and reposition a business to survive and grow in tough times. It appears this is also proving to be true in this current crisis with firms trying their hardest to stay in business, weather the storm and in some cases grow.
I’d like to share a couple of these stories with you and hopefully provide some inspiration to those who are undoubtedly only seeing a bleak future ahead of them.
Adapting to a changing market is essential and this has been personified by the actions of David Josephs who runs grocery wholesaler All Greens in south London.
When his restaurant customers shutting down, he saw sales crash by 80%. It was at this point he turned, for the first time, to the internet. As a result, he is now selling fruit and vegetable boxes for home delivery.
David is also a great example of maximising on his existing network of customers and contacts. Orders were starting to come in at a slow rate until one of his restaurant customers, celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi, posted about All Green’s delivery service on Instagram. Orders have grown massively since and led to the company adding an additional 14 new staff to his existing workforce of 18.
As All Green has proven, as have so many retail-based businesses, that technology, and in particular the internet has been their saviour.
I have also seen technology being applied to help the fight against coronavirus with firms with 3D printers helping to produce face masks for healthcare workers and other bits of kit, which is fantastic.
Tech firms are also adapting to the evolving business landscape. Among the many sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic is exhibition and business events.
We are, by our very nature, sociable animals and thrive through interactions. From the dawn of time deals and transactions have been agreed by the shake of the hand. Current social distancing and lockdown prevents this, and I think it might take some time before people are totally confident about going to mass business gatherings.
A firm in Middlesbrough have considered this and have come up with a solution. Animmersion UK is involved in tech such as virtual reality and has developed a way to host an exhibition without visitors having to leave the comfort of their home or office.
Its Virtual Interactive Events basically create a virtual exhibition stand where, by wearing a VR headset, people can be transported to meet and talk to meet as close to face to face as possible.
There will be hundreds more of these stories out there from businesses that are evolving and adapting in this tough and truly challenging time. I hope that we can all continue to galvanise the spirit of our entrepreneurial nation to drive business forward together.