During Sir Michael Rake’s address to Cardiff Business Club he said, “If you are ambitious, then you need to learn to be resilient”. Wise words to heed in our current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous VUCA world, but can resilience blind you to the need to stringently prepare or does it underpin success in the face of adversity.

Let’s look back on some of the changes UK businesses have encountered in the recent past. There was the 70’s oil crisis, followed by the 80’s switch from a manufacturing economy to a services economy, the 90’s hailed Black Wednesday and who can forget the great recession of 2007/2008, blamed ultimately on the global financial crisis, that we all reeled from in one way or another.

Yet for many SMEs, whose nature of robust optimism dictates they will live to fight another day, such occurrences are now a distant memory. For many of them the turmoil of Brexit, with the possible introduction of trade tariffs, is regarded as just another of a number of issues they have to deal with, together with some of the recent challenges such as:

For some sectors too, there is also the likelihood of increased costs passed to consumers, as a result of the inevitable labour shortage that will arise if many European workers decide to leave the UK. Such occurrences create a wealth of instability to be addressed and navigated and one can see how Sir Michael’s words ring true.

The significance of resilient leaders and successful SMEs within the UK economy is not to be overlooked and despite the array of challenges to overcome a recent report from Hampshire Trust Bank and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that SMEs are forecast to contribute £241bn to UK economy by 2025. If the findings of the report are accurate and come to fruition the importance of SMEs to our country’s economy will only increase and such research may well inspire business leaders to continue to invest in growth strategies.

Last year City AM launched a new section in their publication - Building Britain’s Businesses. Their objective was to highlight SMEs who are resilient and who are successfully contributing to the UK economy by sustaining employment and creating growth in Britain. Similarly, in 2016 and again in 2017, Grant Thornton’s Faces of a Vibrant Economy brought together 100 Faces from across the UK to create a community of robust leaders who are also successfully contributing to thriving environments of sustainable and inclusive growth.

Are there lessons to be learnt from such organisations? Yes of course.

In today’s uncertain times collaboration can be a useful tool. Resilient business leaders have much to offer to reinforce the growth message. They can share experiences, exchange intelligence and provide meaningful insights, all of which creates opportunity for growing businesses looking to enter new markets, to expand or to access finance.

Despite continued uncertainty it’s not all doom and gloom and although the underlying problems in our economy will worsen before they get better, now is not the time there to stand still and wait to be surprised. It’s time for SMEs to be forward thinking and savvy in their planning and to consider alternative scenarios and align these with successful delivery strategies. Ambitious business leaders won't be waiting for Brexit to happen to their organisation, they will already be proactive with critical thinking plans, stress testing strategies and unlocking their future potential to ensure their continued success. Now more than ever it is crucial for companies to take the time to effectively plan for the future and consider the following tactics:

  •  ensure that every part of their business is operating using lean principles
  •  identify and deal with the underperforming parts of the business
  •  develop a culture which encourages internal and external stakeholders to optimize  the performance of the business
  •  explore alternative funding options
  •  look to diversify into new markets
  •  develop new products and services
  •  consider mergers and acquisitions
  •  track and measure today’s output against tomorrow’s landscape

Further inspiration can be gleaned from reading the London Stock Exchange Group’s (LSE) annual round-up of the 1,000 most dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK which shows that Britain’s fastest-growing companies are getting bigger faster. These dynamic, entrepreneurial and determined organisations are boosting productivity, driving growth and creating jobs, all of which are to be applauded. My suggestion is to ‘Read em and Reap!’