In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs across the island remain positive, with 60% anticipating a return to normal trading conditions within 12 months, according to an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year survey published yesterday.
The reality of trading in the current environment is evident with 33% of entrepreneurs saying they face challenges implementing social distancing protocols. The barometer of how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the business community was carried out among 90 former winners and finalists of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programme.
The findings of this pulse survey contrast starkly to the 2020 annual survey, carried out among 120 of the same group of entrepreneurs in the final quarter of 2019. At the end of 2019, 85% of entrepreneurs said they planned to increase staff headcount in the 12 months that followed; just five months later, 47% have reduced their headcount.
However, in spite of current circumstances, 55% still expect to increase their headcount in 2021. Swift action by Government in providing much-needed supports for enterprise has been acknowledged, with 70% stating that they’ve found the Government supportive at this time.
While three-quarters (76%) have seen their revenues fall so far this year, the sentiment is more optimistic about 2021 among the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year community, with half expecting to increase revenue. However, the spectre of uncertainty remains, with more than a quarter (28%) saying that the lack of certainty ahead makes it impossible to predict revenues for the coming year.
Following almost two months of widespread business closure and the adaptation to new ways of working, the top three challenges entrepreneurs say they are facing are: forecasting uncertainty (74%), reduced sales (63%); and opening of international markets (38%).
Speaking this week, Partner Lead for EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, Roger Wallace said, "The reality is social distancing is new and very different for all of us. The vast majority of entrepreneurs have had to make sweeping changes to their businesses to allow them to continue to operate in some capacity, while protecting the health of their staff and customers. There is a definite acknowledgement from entrepreneurs that they are facing, and will face, major challenges in the short term but their positivity and ability to find a solution rather than dwell on a problem remains."
He added, "Many businesses across the island will no doubt be faced with very tough decisions about when it is safe and viable for them to reopen, and how business will look in the future. As we hopefully move towards a wider reopening of the economy, it is important that the efforts private enterprise is making to restart continue to be supported by our financial institutions and our Government."