Lisa Davies is a director and co-owner of Adtentus Ltd and an innovation and strategy specialist. In this special feature, Davies discusses the "innovation specialist" response to the coronavirus crisis, how Adtentus has met the challenge and how the government can help business get back on its feet.
Immediately, Davies identifies language as a key issue to address during these extraordinary times.
She says: "Already I've seen the word 'crisis' being used to describe this pandemic and whilst I understand using such words and this very much could be considered a 'crisis', when in a situation such as this, calm language is what we need.
"If we use calm language, every business leader, employee and self-employed person can make rational decisions."
Davies then turned her attention to business and how it can change tact and respond to the crisis, rather than simply give up.
Davies explains: "On review of the announcements from business leaders, from aviation to hospitality, my immediate point of view was the abundance of opportunity that lay before them.
"There are alternative revenue streams. Physical constraints, lock-down, are not reasons for businesses to end, but reasons for businesses to regenerate, to rethink and to respond.
"Pubs, hotels, aviation and even the film industry have alternative revenue streams or delivery models they can build, but with the fog of confusion, they just can’t see them yet."
This response from business, in Davies' view, has exposed the fact that few firms followed the Minimum Quality Profit Margin as they should.
"This Minimum Quality Profit Margin can be demonstrated by the acronym 'LIFEBOATS': Lending, Innovation, Future, Exit, Base Rate, Options, Actuarial, Time, and Sex & Safety.
"The situation that has unfolded in 2020 shows that few if any firms were following this".
One of the first failures British businesses have made, Davies feels, is choosing not to invest in innovation, but also failing to establish a contingency plan as a safety net.
"Most businesses have failed to invest in innovation and in particular, failed to train innovation, especially for such times", Davies explains.
"There is also a noticeable failure for safety, that is to say ensuring there is resilience within the business to weather a storm, or even multiple storms. Options should be considered at every board meeting, rather than going about business as usual and exception reporting.
"That gives way to what is going to be the stock phrase of the year 2020: 'What are our options'?"
It begs the question, therefore, as to what businesses and sectors should do and what the government can do to truly help the situation. Davies came armed with answers to these questions too.
"Firstly, there are skilled in companies out there that can help with these circumstances.
"If we look at companies like Adtentus, who are experienced at business growth, innovation and business turnaround, these firms and skill-sets need the platform to be in front of the business leaders
"It is the government's responsibility to create the platforms for these people to support as many organisations at one time. But this is very much about the ecosystem. We are, right now, in a non-compete moment. Our ability to genuinely collaborate, share ideas and execute new business models, services, products is the basis of the UK success."
Davies also raises the point that a renewed focus on training must also come in order to benefit recruitment.
Davies says: "The focus needs to be on training, re-training and cross-training. The economy as a whole and sectors within have been fragile from the antiquated approach to recruitment.
"The idea lingers that failing to have sector experience is a reason to disqualify a candidate. This has fundamentally halted cross-fertilisation and any opportunity to build resilience. For over a decade, I’ve known that there is benefit in the accountancy sector alone to be desktop trained in other sectors.
"Why is this? Because this allows for easier movement of skilled individuals and helps to breakdown pay barriers between sectors. For those prepared to invest their time in new knowledge, there should be rewards."
Although industries have not historically been well-suited to cross-training, Davies now sees an opportunity for firms to cash in on this.
"Now is the opportunity", she says. "Those that are self-employed could be supported by government schemes to train the next generation or individuals that want a new career.
"This training is and should be considered an asset. It is important that businesses are able to capitalise key training that leads to resilience of the organisation and enables cross-fertilisation of skills. We need to rethink accountancy standards, and in doing so, deliver the substance to support refinancing."
Davies then turned her attention to another approach that firms should take to respond to the crisis: diversification. In other words, companies expanding their businesses from their core service, and investing across sectors.
"Separation is expansion", Davies explains.
"Now is the time for some companies to sell parts of the business. To evaluate whether they are genuinely growing those divisions, brands or products to their fullest potential.
"If the answer to that is 'no', then they should consider selling them to consortiums with careful combination of sector knowledge and innovation and let those consortiums grow those businesses so that they are able to float.
"We’ve got a lot of water, but we need a lot more boats to make some noise."
Davies adds that grit and determination to be resourceful within business is now going to be more important than ever before.
"The focus is to pick people up, more hands to the pump and more brains to the table. We don't need to fight, but we do need more military grit and determination. That skill to dig deep, be resourceful and create something from nothing is what we need.
"We need this to happen with reasonable speed. Recently, I put forward a new product idea to a brewery, for example. These ideas need to be taken up with haste. Ideas need to be distributive."
In Davies' view, people with experience should train, people with money should invest, and people with ideas, plans and strategies should match to support and invest. For Davies, it may be the time to consider government backed and funded business in a new way.
She says: "I believe now is the time to consider government backed and government funded business in a new light, maybe even at a new level."
Asked leave businesses with some key words to ponder, Davies simply said the following:
"Recruit, recruit, recruit. Train, train, train. Float, float, float."
This article presents the views of Lisa Davies, director and co-owner of Adtentus Ltd and an innovation & strategy specialist whose innovation work is founded on the Darwinian approach.