Lessons from 2023 for SMEs in the City

Lessons from 2023 for SMEs in the City
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BUSINESSES have had many obstacles to face both economically and commercially in 2023.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a knock-on effect on suppliers and energy costs, whilst businesses are still dealing with the fall-out of the global pandemic, cost-of-living crisis and the ever-faster development of technologies.

Here Matthew Hayes the Managing Director of award-winning brand agency Champions (UK) plc, Matthew Hayes comments on what lessons can be learned from 2023 for SMEs in the city.

“The first thing we’ve learned from 2023, is to expect the unexpected.

I would suggest that this should continue to be the method we take into 2024 and beyond as we’ve had the war in Ukraine, the war in Israel, rapidly spiralling inflation, pay increases, a cost-of-living crisis, and utility challenge.

And all of that is before we even start talking about the aftermath of Covid, remote working and our ability to perform in a new working pattern.

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I think we have to continue to take the lesson of expecting the unexpected and that cash flow and liquidity is going to be key.

Making sure you have enough to cope with the worst-case scenario is what you need to be doing and that requires some depth of cash flow beyond a normal runway in case things continue to spiral out of control as that is likely to still be the case.

Whilst we are currently avoiding a recession technically, the reality is different. I believe and I think most business owners will agree that we are in a time of economic downturn.

I would be really focusing on doubling down on what you are good at and looking at staving off or potentially not going into the unknown at this point.

Look at what you’re really good at as a business and focus on maximising that over the next 6-12 months.

The positives are that we are still here, still here after Brexit, after COVID-19 and now after all the problems 2023 has thrown at us. If you’re still here, you pretty much have still got a strong robust business.

If anyone navigates efficiently through any form of downturn or challenge, you always come out a little bit stronger and have a far more resilient business.

In essence, it certainly is the time to double down and if you’ve got a business that is doing ok, ensure you have the cash flow then really double down and drill into what you’re doing.

Times of downturn are an opportunity for entrepreneurial businesses. If you can stand still when everyone is going backward, then your market share is growing. If you can grow when everyone else is going backwards, your market share is exponentially growing and that’s where the opportunity lies.

The management of growth is key in the next year or two in order to ensure you are still here, and again cash flow is going to be key. The other thing however is that the pace of change is so great that businesses can evolve every 3-6 months as opposed to historically every 3-6 years.

Don’t be afraid to pivot and don’t be afraid to adopt change for the benefit of the business.”

AI (Artificial Intelligence) will offer opportunities and it comes in different forms that have become widely available in everyday life.

It can help automate routine tasks, which saves time, maximizes productivity, reduces the risk of human error, and drives team member engagement by enabling them to spend time on more meaningful work.

AI can also improve decision-making by helping to identify new business opportunities, flag operational roadblocks, determine effective ways to personalize offerings and outreach based on customer data, and prepare for potential challenges.

AI is not a big scary ogre coming over the hill, it is the application of the last two decades of computer learning that enables us to access the world’s global intelligence in seconds and apply that to the benefit of our business, now how is that not a good thing? Every form of learning in the world is now readily available.

The application of AI is incredibly powerful, and businesses should be moving now to utilise that because why wouldn’t you? It can create huge efficiencies within your business which is adding cost-effective delivery that relates to my point that if you can continue to do what you’re doing but at less cost through efficiency drivers then your business will be in a stronger position in 12 months’ time.

As we enter 2024, I’d encourage business leaders to embrace change in order to drive towards a positive future.”

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