Crisis Kitchen: SMEs and survivability during Covid-19

YUDU CEO, Richard Stephenson, guides SMEs through some practical steps to survive the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 epidemic

How SMEs can survive the challenges of Covid-19

We, like many SMEs, cannot call on our staffer and high flying advisors to model the future and create multiple scenarios.

In some ways this is probably a good thing and it is clear that the experts cannot agree on the journey, nor the end destination and certainly not the timing. So, that advice would have such a wide margin of outcomes it would still come down to a balanced judgement from the CEO or the senior team.

In SME land we have to pick through all the clutter and make the best decisions we can.

In every economy there are businesses that are fragile due to events unconnected with the coronavirus impact and those will most likely fail.

They will not pass the test the banks are applying for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, as they will be regarded as too high a risk. That will be tragic for many who were in the midst of a turnaround and did not get enough done before the crisis impacted.

So, this virus will end up culling a significant number of businesses. Some of which would have failed in any case, but their demise will have been accelerated. Some would have succeeded, but lost their chance by this cruel hand of fate.

For the rest of us, there is no free pass to success and I suggest survival will depend on these 5 qualities.


Wisdom is defined beautifully by Alain de Botton in his book The School of Life. It comprises twelve ingredients of which I will pick out just 2 but all are very relevant.

  • Realism: The wise are first and foremost 'Realistic' about how challenging many things can be. They are fully conscious of the complexities. But knowing something is difficult doesn't rob the wise of ambition and instead makes them more steadfast, calmer, and less prone to panic. The wise rarely expect anything to be wholey easy or go to plan.
  • Resilience: The wise have a solid sense of what they survive. They know just how much can go wrong and yet things will still be, just about, liveable.

Finally the wise know it is not possible to be wise every every hour or every day.


The shift to working from home created scattered staff working in unfamiliar surroundings. Some maybe both in lockdown and furloughed, others maybe unable to work.

Following the daily briefings is useful but what does this mean for my job? Leaders need to lead like never before and take care of staff with a new and deeper focus. When the time comes, how you have led the company will be assessed and if done well you will have a team that can ride the recovery better than the competition.


The plan is dead, long live the plan. To be agile, uou always need a plan from which to navigate but be prepared at any stage to rip it up and write a new one. Short sweet understandable plans are the order of the day. In such uncertainty, there will be a time to move fast but not do a Linford Christie on go on the B of the Bang.


Those that will survive this will have bundles of competence in depth in the company. Knowledge and good skills is the kernel of any organisation. And if you need to cut costs, the furlough scheme is vital in avoiding loosing the competences needed to recover.


It is not about the CEO or the board, survival will be driven by the energy and skill of the team. So it's critical to look after the team, ensure they are empowered for taking action, aware of the strategy and have a positive winning mentality. Overcoming adversity is never achieved by a team of pessimists but by driven, positive thinking and focussed people.

That's my thoughts this week from the crisis kitchen...

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