Supporting Business Owners post Covid-19

Wed, July 29th, 2020

A short blog from Dr Elizabeth Heyworth-Thomas, Senior Lecturer at LJMU...

Dr Elizabeth Heyworth-Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Liverpool John Moores University: 

 As we start to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, business owners worldwide are adapting to a new sense of normality and planning for an uncertain future. As a researcher of entrepreneurship, sociology, and social policy I have been fascinated by the display of innovation by business owners across Liverpool and beyond. There has been a real shift in community cohesion as we have pulled together in our communities in a show of solidarity. As we dust ourselves off, it is time to reflect upon the impact that the pandemic has had on society, the economy, our businesses, and ourselves.

Whilst stories of positivity within communities and opportunities for business owners have been shared, they are not relatable to all. The rise in mental health conditions and suicide in the UK has been well documented throughout the pandemic. With a proven link between economic strain and business owner suicide, the mental health and wellbeing of business owners cannot go ignored.

UK business owners across all sectors have been hit hard; some businesses being more vulnerable than others. With typically less liquidity and a reliance on personal savings, the most vulnerable of which are new or young businesses, those owned by sole traders, and micro, small and medium sized enterprise (MSME). There is an argument that businesses which are small in size tend to be more resilient than larger organisations as they can adapt to change relatively quickly, as we have seen with businesses in the hospitality sector in particular. Examples of this are where restaurants have swiftly moved from table service to take away or delivery. However, we must not forget that for some businesses it has been impossible to adapt to a new way of doing things, such as those in the personal care industries such as beauticians, hairdressers, barbers, tattoo artists and dentists.

As we think about the impact of the pandemic on businesses, I cannot help but feel drawn to look behind the scenes to the business owners and their families. For many sole trader businesses and MSMEs there has been family investment or use of personal finances. Often, the boundaries of personal and professional life are skewed as family members become emerged in the business, particularly during times of business difficulty. For some, the business may be the primary or sole household income. This places a vast amount of pressure on business owners and their families to make the business work, leading them to put the business before their own personal relationships and, psychological and emotional health.

Through recent research into the impact of the pandemic on business owners, I have found that whilst practical business support is welcomed, valued, and in some cases essential - support in terms of the psychological and emotional impact of the pandemic is much needed.

To address this need, and to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on business owners, Dr Rosalind Jones of the University of Birmingham and myself are currently inviting business owners to participate in research. We aim to provide a voice for business owners across the UK and will be informing policymakers, academics, and business support organisations of the range of support needs that need to be met. If you would like to contribute to our research, please complete our survey by clicking here.

It has been great to see a collaborative response to economic recovery throughout Liverpool. Myself and colleagues at Liverpool Business School are committed to supporting local business owners through research and initiatives such as the Liverpool Business School Business Clinic, which provides businesses across Liverpool with the opportunity to work with our students on business-led consultancy projects. If you would like to find out more about how the Business Clinic can support your business, please contact us by email: LBSBusinessClinic@ljmu.ac.uk

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