Hot 100 debate: Meeting the challenges of coronavirus

The resilience of Lancashire’s SMEs and their ability to respond quickly to change are helping them meet the challenges of coronavirus, an online event featuring a cross-section of county business leaders heard.

The panel event marked the publication of this year’s Lancashire Business Views Hot 100 list of the county’s most profitable SMEs.

And it featured the leaders of some of the top companies listed in this years much-anticipated table.

As well as hearing how they have driven the county’s economy over the last 12 months, businesses shared how they are faring in these exceptional times, including what measures they are taking to meet the current challenges they face.

Innovation, the upskilling of workers and investment were all seen as vitally important elements in the response needed to successfully deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Simon Bolton, associate dean at Edge Hill University, headline sponsor of the Hot 100 feature and event, said: Those companies that are reacting quickly and understand changing customer requirements are coming out of the challenges quicker. They are pro-active, they have got a plan to invest and to seek help.

He added: Many of the resilient businesses have also used this time productively to upskill their staff so they are ready for the upturn.

We’ve used the time to innovate, we’re planning to come out of this whole situation stronger.

Simon Tickle, estimator at Preston-based construction business Wareing Buildings, number 80 in this years Hot 100 list, explained how its team moved quickly to ensure it continued to operate and do business. He said: We seem to be picking work up and are as busy as ever.

Rollie Attard, chief operating officer at Burnley specialist textile business Panaz, number 33 in the list, said the company had been busy in the healthcare sector, including supplying the Nightingale Hospitals created during the early days of the pandemic in the UK.

He said: We acted as quickly as we could and kept the doors open and we managed the situation well.

And he added: Weve also used the time to innovate, implementing new technologies including a lot of automation. Were planning to come out of this whole situation stronger.

Valentina Slater, sales director at number two ranked business Direct Accident Management, based in Ormskirk, was also bullish about her companys future performance.

She told the online audience that it had continued to operate fully throughout lockdown and was now actively recruiting more staff.

John Boys, director at number 53-ranked business, Waterfoot-headquartered construction group B&E Boys, also stressed that speed was of the essence in its response to the crisis.

He told the event, hosted by Lancashire Business View publisher Richard Slater: We readjusted as swiftly as possible, following government guidance. We set out a road map and we followed it.

Khalid Saifullah, managing director at Star Tissue, the Blackburn manufacturer at number 11 in the Hot 100, said it had continued its investment plans throughout the pandemic working to increase capacity and production.

He said: The new production facility will allow us to make our products better and faster than most of our competitors in the UK.

Andy Walker, head of business growth at Lancashire County Developments Ltd (LCDL), number five in the list, told of a mixed picture among the tenants in its commercial properties, depending on the sectors they operate in.

And Amin Vepari, senior project officer at Two Zero, another sponsor of this years Hot 100 list, told the event that despite the impact of Covid-19 there was a lot positivity across the county, as well as great innovation.

He said having a positive mindset and celebrating success were major weapons for businesses in the current situation.

Dean Rodgers, chartered accountant at Haworths Chartered Accountants, who compiled this years list, said construction and manufacturing had shown strongly in the 100.

He added that next years list could look rather different, and predicted that online retailers would feature more strongly.

He also pointed to the strong support system that exists in Lancashire to help businesses as they navigate through and beyond the pandemic.

This first ever Hot 100 online panel event was held in association with Edge Hill University, Harworths Chartered Accountants, Two Zero and Boost.

The full Hot 100 feature can be found in the current edition of Lancashire Business View, in print and online.

Watch the event on demand here