The Impact of Government Support on Business: A Response to YPO Global Survey

There’s an English proverb, “What can’t speak can’t lie,” and with the second highest coronavirus deaths worldwide per 1 million of any nation, there has to be aspects of our government’s approach to the crisis that could be questioned. That said, the package of support for U.K. business and the wider economy has received surprisingly little criticism.

The survey results from YPO’s most recent COVID-19 Global Survey highlight a link between the leaders of businesses in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, who top the table of the companies that have received government support and also figure as the leaders with “the most positive business outlook as compared to 1 March 2020.”

What a difference a month makes! At the end of April, most businesses were in the “Immediate Response” and “Business Continuity” phases. It’s clear that many have jumped a grouping and now sit within “Continuity” and “Business Revival.”

I feel many of my contemporaries in the U.K. would also share the survey’s more optimistic sentiment, and this is in large part due to the government’s unprecedented level of payroll support, government-backed finance, tax breaks and widespread understanding of the challenges businesses have faced through the crisis.

The big question is whether we will enter a “U-shaped,” “V-shaped” or the more doomed “L- shaped” recovery.  Is the extensive “payroll support” simply delaying an inevitable massive increase to the unemployment figures or providing a genuine platform for recovery?

I’m sure that the 91-year-old chief executive who completed the survey would probably disagree with me on account of the events they have witnessed in their career, but it does feel as a British business, we’ve had our fair share of challenges – the financial crash, Brexit and now coronavirus.  We could be forgiven for thinking we’re getting quite good at “managing a crisis,” but one thing we hadn’t factored in to the plan was how to encourage someone who has had a completely uninterrupted three-month holiday, with 80% income support, “back into a warehouse.”

Of course, there are some who would never undertake another day’s work if they did not have to, but the vast majority just want to engage and re-discover their “work purpose.”

We are hearing a lot about how recent events are accelerating technological change. Less prevalent are the conversations that were also top of the agenda around social impact and values-driven organizations.

“The big question is whether we will enter a “U-shaped,” “V-shaped” or the more doomed “L- shaped” recovery.” Jason Kenworthy, CEO & Founder  SMD ILIV Group

As we move through the phases, let’s hope as chief executives and members of YPO, we can lead in these areas.  There will inevitably be colleagues who must leave some businesses, and we will be remembered for “not what we did but how we did it.”  One statistic that possibly will go un-measured is how those leaving their businesses felt or, indeed, how truly excited were those who came back to us from their gardens.

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.

Jason Kenworthy is CEO and Founder of SMD ILIV Group, which designs and manufactures textiles for residential and commercial interiors. SMD ILIV is a global business manufacturing in 10 countries and distributing to 50. Kenworthy has been a member of YPO for 10 years, undertaking numerous leadership roles in his chapter located in the U.K. Born and bred in Lancashire, the heart of the industrial revolution, he lives in the beautiful but tiny northern coastal town of Lytham, famous for its British Open Golf Course. He is married to Heidi and is father to four amazing children Harry, Bella, Mili and Will who are active in YPO’s Next Generation community.