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In light of the current crisis, business support organisations are putting all their efforts into helping businesses navigate the pandemic. Since lockdown began, the Sussex Innovation team has had all hands on deck providing advice and support, helping members source funding and understand the government support available.

Sussex Innovation has seen its community come together during this pandemic, and are helping them respond in agile, creative and sustainable ways to survive the crisis and thrive in its aftermath – the theme of their new series of weekly webinars.

‘Survive & Thrive’ webinars, in collaboration with Gatwick Diamond Business, focus on a different business-critical topic each week. A member of the team hosts a panel of subject matter experts for discussion followed by Q&A.

The first webinar on 8th April focused on crisis management, led by Chief Executive, Nigel Lambe. The panel included:

  • Peter Davies, founder and CEO at Airline Management Group
  • Gary Fee, international finance director at Bright Horizons
  • Tim Cobb, founder and managing director at Cobb PR

It was an incredibly insightful discussion of all four participants’ experiences and insights leading businesses through crisis. Tim Cobb gave communication advice, reminding businesses not to neglect clear internal and external communications, including any furloughed staff.

“Wherever you can, try to give your team as up-to-date information as possible,” he commented. “There are some areas you won’t want to touch upon because they’re too delicate or you’re still trying to get your head around it yourself - and that’s fine. But as soon as you have proper plans, talk to the people. Once you start communicating to the team, it’ll ease up your stress levels.”

For part of the discussion, Nigel took the panel back to previous crises including 9/11 and the 2008 recession. Gary spoke about how while this crisis is worse because it’s continuous rather than one disastrous event, the approach has got to be similar; “Keep it simple, move quickly, be agile and decisive, and focus on what the key things are.”

The panel discussed the difficulty of chasing customers and clients for invoices but emphasised that entrepreneurs must remember the whole world is in this situation; you should manage it delicately but it’s sensible to keep chasing. Gary added, “this can’t be a strategy on its own, you must look at reducing your costs as well as recovery. Furlough schemes
and other government support are all part of the puzzle of fixing your cash- flow alongside collecting from exist- ing customers.”

Peter added that given the traumatic nature of this crisis, managers need to see a way through and take the opportunity to learn about themselves; “what’s important is coming out of this with revenue and as a better manager.”

The following week’s webinar examined pivoting to a direct to consumer model and was hosted by Helena Jevons, Sussex Innovation’s Head of Sales and Marketing. The panel included:

  • David Santineer and Alvaro Bravo Cole, founders of Proactive by Design
  • Saikat Chatterjee, enterprise solution architect at Simplex Services
  • Claire Kentish Barnes, founder and distiller at Generation Distillers
  • Ellen Hedges, marketing, innovation and strategic consultant at Eh-Consulting

The panel discussed how to approach a pivot, with David and Alvaro outlining some of the principles of design thinking and Ellen highlighting that the businesses who respond compassionately and helpfully to the crisis will be remembered long afterwards.

Saikat spoke about his new platform ShopSimple, a less complex delivery platform option for small local businesses – a perfect example of how to not only pivot for your business but to help your community during these uncertain times.

Claire shared her story whereby a week before lockdown they began to panic as orders from retailers came to a halt. Her team had seen other breweries making hand sanitiser, but she wasn’t sure if there was enough demand and so posed the question on social media. She received a huge response from carers, police workers, families and nurses proving how high demand was!

“I spent two weeks with help from Sussex Innovation working through the process to get my first deliveries out. Luckily, we’re small so can be very agile. We worked through with HMRC how we can get the alcohol denatured so we don’t have to pay duty on it. We had to buy hundreds of plastic bottles, most of our usual product is locally-sourced glass so this wasn’t our brand but needs must! Cashflow was a concern, but because we did the market research and saw there was demand, we went for it.”

If you’re interested in attending future Survive & Thrive webinars, search for Sussex Innovation on Eventbrite for more information and to book your spot. And whether you’re facing opportunities or threats at this time – if you need support to reposition your business, Sussex Innovation has launched a programme of EU funded Task Forces with senior consultants to help business owners tackle their most pressing business issues.

The team will pre-review your business documents to understand your business inside out before a two-hour collaborative consultancy session to help you identify and answer your key business needs and key strategic decisions. We dig deep into your organisation to understand what needs to be developed and bolstered to help you achieve your ambitions. You will then receive a written report of recommendations within three days to help move your business forward.

Find out more by enquiring at  

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