2020 has been a year full of hyperbole and an unprecedented increase in the use of the word “unprecedented”. Yet I feel very comfortable in stating that the next month might be the most important for UK plc in a very long time.
The 4-5 week period between now and mid-October are bookended by the schools going back (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Scottish schools reopened a month ago) and likely time that decisions are being made on whether to bring employees back from furlough or make their roles redundant.
On the positive front, my kids are incredibly excited about going back to school and this is probably the first generation ever to celebrate the end of their summer holidays. Yet the spectre of 31st October looms large. It may well be the case that the government will extend the furlough scheme, but that’s only kicking the can down the road for a few months. The reckoning is still coming.
We all know that governments don’t create wealth, they spend it. Only business creates wealth and, therefore, tax revenues. Lockdown may have us facing a historical economic downturn and we can debate the merits or not of government intervention on a never-before-seen scale all we like. But the reality is simple: if the public sector dug the hole, it will be the private sector that gets us out of it.
As company Founders and business leaders, we have a moral obligation – to each other – to reject the new normal and to get back to something approximating the old normal, or some braver new version of it. We can’t allow taxpayers money to continue to be spent on propping up zombie companies. Rather, we need to show ambition, roll up our sleeves and loosen our wallets to invest in our shared future.
In my day job at Founder + Lightning, I’m responsible for go-to-market. And I’m delighted to say that we’re developing new products, filling new roles to fuel growth, and we’ve seen our top-line moving in the right direction over the last six months. We’re raising money to invest more in platforms and people as we double-down on our belief that technological innovation will be an essential catalyst to economic recovery and we want to help build the next wave of start-ups, scale-ups and new product ideas. Simply put, we need to be aggressive in our marketing and sales efforts to get the economy moving again.
We all need to show the same energy for spending with suppliers and deploying capital for transformation as we want our prospects and customers to show when consuming our own services. None of us wanted to be here. Many thought it unimaginable. But governmental intervention won’t get us back to where we were. The entrepreneurial spirit will so we must all be bold and ambitious.
Crucially, we can’t wait. We have little more than a month. If businesses see green shoots of recovery by the time they’re making furlough decisions, they will be able to bridge a short-term gap based on the strength of expanding pipelines, and perhaps we can avert an avalanche of job losses. But we’re in this together: if you’re not spending money with others, but hope others will spend theirs with you, you’re not helping. We must honour our obligations to each other, rebuild fragile consumer and business confidences, and get Britain moving again.