The challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurial businesses in the current economic climate

Arrowpoint Advisory and Rothschild & Co Wealth Management recently hosted an online event, exclusively for female business leaders and entrepreneurs. We heard from Stephanie Dobrikova, CEO of Ascenti and Tracy Baumfield, Director at Reed & Mackay, both successful entrepreneurs who have built their careers over time by leading internal improvement projects in order to grow their business’ organically or through Private Equity backed buy-outs.

Over the last six months, both companies have faced significant challenges as a result of the pandemic. Ascenti, a leading provider of physiotherapy, were forced to close their clinical network, while business travel experts Reed & Mackay have taken a huge hit as lockdowns came into effect and international travel came to a grinding halt.

Once the scale of the pandemic became clear, early and decisive planning was imperative to ensure their businesses were well-prepared for different eventualities, while ensuring employees were able to work from home effectively.  While Ascenti and Reed & Mackay have both had to make necessary changes to adapt to the disruption, Stephanie reveals that Ascenti had already initiated a significant shift to digital services prior the pandemic. This specifically designed platform has enabled them to provide digital triage and online consultations, even while clinics were shut. This tool has placed them in a strong position within the physiotherapy industry, and allowed them to provide invaluable services to existing clients. With their clients now embracing this change, digital consultations cannot only be regarded as a COVID ‘stop-gap’; their success suggests they will represent a big part of the business’ future.

Reed & Mackay, on the other hand, have had to make more difficult and substantial decisions to adapt to the lack of travel during the pandemic. Taking steps to re-engineer and re-structure the business, Tracy describes how they have taken advantage of related revenue streams to shore up their lost business. While the travel industry has always been vulnerable to global shocks, the last 6 months may have undermined the prior need for business travel, as virtual communication has become the new normal and proved effective. Nonetheless, Tracy maintains that meeting face-to-face is still incomparable, particularly for certain industries who rely on trust and eye contact to negotiate and close deals.

Looking ahead, Stephanie and Tracy emphasise that innovation and remaining competitive will become even more essential not only at this time, but when we begin to emerge from the crisis. While Ascenti’s digital program has been successful, Stephanie recognises the pace of technological progress and stresses the importance of careful investment to remain cutting edge. Reed & Mackay has similarly made movements into tech, specifically Software as a service (SaaS).

Finally, both Tracy and Stephanie speak about the importance of publicising and sharing the achievements and success stories of different business and industries during this period. As businesses gradually shift out of survival mode, these narratives and examples of what has worked will be essential in inspiring companies and industries in the long-term.

Read more about their experiences and key takeaways in our Q&A editorial here.

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