How to run a resilient business during COVID-19

A chartered accountant by trade and fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, Tony Price has been a partner at PwC for 25 years, working with Sage for two decades helping small and medium-sized businesses grow.

We heard from the PwC partner, on the latest Sage Partner Podcast, about what his clients are learning from the coronavirus crisis to move forward and build resilience, and what you can learn from it.

What are the biggest challenges?

Before coronavirus, many businesses were tinkering with the cloud and slowly changing how they operated. Many had cloud strategies in the pipeline or on the drawing board and some firms had cloud and remote access solutions that only worked for a fraction of the full workforce.

So, over the many weeks of lockdown, businesses have learned to change, adapt, and embrace new technology and ways of working at breakneck speed. Some have stepped into a new way of working quickly, but with others, it has been more challenging and is taking more time.

What examples have you seen of businesses struggling with coronavirus?

When coronavirus hit, many businesses found their business support models were not resilient, as their IT was not scalable. I had a client who had tested all of their virtual systems, expecting that a small percentage of their people would need to connect at the same time.

When all of their employees had to use the system due to coronavirus, it could not cope. They had to prioritize availability to customer-facing staff and shut the whole back office down. It has taken them three months to get into a position of having the right scalability and infrastructure to allow their entire business to function.

I have also seen many finance functions too reliant on the knowledge of individual people. They had not documented their processes, which meant that if a member of the team was out of action, the finance function could not run properly. This seems like a simple fix, but over and over again, I saw businesses with employees that had been directly or indirectly affected by coronavirus, and nobody had any idea what they did. Having processes well documented and understood is crucial.

Can coronavirus be a catalyst for positive change?

We have all been hit pretty hard by coronavirus, and I do not want to belittle the human disasters it has brought to us. However, I like to step back and reflect on a quote from Winston Churchill that was extensively quoted after the financial crisis of 10 years ago – “Never waste a good crisis.”

The Churchill quote is just a reflection that I have seen things changing in a few weeks that haven’t moved forward for years. Coronavirus could be a point of focus – a catalyst for change to get on and use the technology that we have invested in to finally change our ways of working – or to invest in new technology.

Is every business a start-up right now?

Buying decisions have sped up frantically, creating an incredible opportunity for cloud transition. Over the years, I have been a keen observer of how decisions get made for businesses large and small. Usually, entrepreneurism loses out to a need for the long, drawn-out consensual process when making

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