Welcome to ‘Tough Challenges, New Possibilities’, the interview series that asks world class business advisors and executives to reflect on success and key challenges for small business in difficult times. Next in the series is Simon Jones, communications advisor to global CEOs and leading tech entrepreneurs.

About Simon Jones

Simon delivers strategic counsel in communications and reputation management for governments, corporations and individuals around the world. He advises chief executives and chairs of global organisations, in addition to managing complex and global communications campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands, including Barclays, the BBC, Coca Cola, Facebook and Vodafone. Simon is currently on the Pollinate Advisory Board.

What’s the biggest challenge small businesses face coming out of the pandemic?

Dancing with fear – overcoming an all-pervading sense of fear and uncertainty. The cushioning against Covid-19’s full impact, with furloughed workers and bank loan payment holidays, could present a false reality, preventing firms from restarting trading in dynamic and different ways. Small firms need to look at regenerative business models to restore prosperity without resorting to defensive or protective strategies.

What are you most excited about in today’s small businesses?

The really exciting ones have a genuine passion and a vision to make their dream into a reality. A crisis requires courage and commitment to stick with a vision. There are many entrepreneurs with those qualities and I’m hopeful they will pull through.

What role can technology play?

Technology has to be viewed in terms of who it serves, rather than just what it does, with humans at the very top. It has to be in the service of what we want it to do. It’s in the service of science when it comes to finding cures for pandemics and in the service of efficiency as we create aqueducts to move money around more effectively.

How can technology enable small businesses to make a difference?

Technology can level the playing field, giving small operators the same power as larger companies to achieve goals such as reaching new customers and entering new markets. In advertising and communications, social media enables brands to get messages across in brighter and more accessible ways

What excites you most about what might be possible over the next five years?

I get excited about democratisation of technology. It makes my heart leap when a London Underground busker has payment technology enabling electronic tipping. What other problems can technology solve for the small guy?

What’s impossible in business today that will be fully possible within the next ten years?

Convergence of AI, 5G and the Internet of Things will transform business models, changing every business sector. Fusing biotech data with business will bring the currently “impossible” within reach. Biometrics will transform what we eat and how we exercise, learn and work. From payments to the discovery of cures for diseases, biometric data will become the currency of the new social economy.