Welcome to ‘Tough Challenges, New Possibilities’, the interview series that asks business leaders for their advice for small businesses to adapt and thrive in these challenging times. We spoke to Lord Hammond of Runnymede about the challenges small businesses are facing, the importance of the fourth industrial revolution and post-pandemic opportunities. 

About Philip Hammond

Philip has had a distinguished career in British politics as a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2019. He held a range of Senior cabinet posts, most recently serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2016 to 2019. As Chancellor, Philip focussed on the long-term productivity challenges facing the UK economy and was a strong advocate for the Financial Services sector, and especially forthe fast-growing Fintech sector.

He championed the cause of SMBs and the need for greater access to long-term growth capital to allow successful British start-ups to scale up in the UK, rather than seeking capital overseas.

What’s the biggest challenge small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) face coming out of the pandemic?

The first instinct was to hunker down and survive, generating and preserving liquidity as best you can. Now we’re moving into a phase when business and government have to take stock of structural changes, such as the move to a cashless society. We’re probably never going back, so SMBs need to be agile, honest and nimble in re-evaluating their business models.

What’s your advice to SMBs in this pandemic?

In the crisis, it was imperative to conserve cash. Now, the challenge is in moving from the defensive crouch to the leap forward. If you remain in the
defensive crouch, you’ll be left behind. It’s time to look beyond the crisis and decide where your business can go.

What role can technology play?

Technology is a very important driver of Britain’s future prosperity. We’re strong in generating it and far ahead of other large economies in adapting to trends, such as online retailing and the cashless society. Technology is going to change everything, transforming the way the economy works and creating opportunities for new businesses, plus new options for established firms.

How can technology enable SMBs to make a difference?

Technology enfranchises SMBs, reducing the economies of scale larger competitors enjoy and giving them access to buyers who weren’t accessible a few years ago. Through technology platforms, SMBs can also access tools like loyalty programmes that were previously the preserve of larger businesses.