Leadership in a time of crisis

As Coronavirus continues to ravage the economy, an innovative business partnership programme is providing crucial support to UK small businesses in their fight for survival.

Leadership in a time of crisis

As Coronavirus continues to ravage the economy, an innovative business partnership programme is providing crucial support to UK small businesses in their fight for survival.

The Small Business Leadership Programme has been formed to support the over 99% of British businesses that are small to medium sized enterprises. Widely seen as the backbone of the economy, small businesses employ 16m people.

It is therefore essential for small businesses to be at the heart of plans to rebuild the post-Covid economy, and vital that they are supported in efforts to survive and thrive. 

Coronavirus has put untold pressure on directors and CEOs of small companies. According to a recent McKinsey online survey of UK SMEs, 80% of small businesses reported revenues were declining in June 2020. This is something that is expected to continue as uncertainty persists. 

The Small Business Leadership Programme has been introduced by the government to support small businesses at every point, enabling them to face the next 12 months with confidence and resilience.


It is not cash revenue alone that is going to keep small businesses afloat when navigating today’s unchartered economic waters. Business owners need support, advice and guidance to back investment in innovation and the necessary transitions to enable continued growth. Partnerships with business schools make it possible to provide knowledge and assistance beyond a simple cash injection.

With business schools located within universities in every region and therefore accessible to small businesses everywhere, the Small Business Charter together with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recognised the opportunity for an initiative to provide targeted support. Leading business schools across the country are opening their doors and online learning environments to owners and directors of small to medium sized businesses.

The Small Business Leadership Programme aims to help leaders improve the resilience and productivity of their businesses in the long term, providing the tools for future successful growth.

How it works

The business schools delivering the programme have been accredited by the Small Business Charter, a national accreditation awarded by small businesses to business schools that excel in supporting small business, student enterprise and the local economy. 

The Small Business Leadership Programme itself is short and focused. Guided by a team of academics who specialise in small business management, participants will develop their leadership skills and strategies to help their businesses survive and thrive. The programme is delivered online over 10 weeks during which peer group work is encouraged, giving participants vital opportunities to extend their business network.

Essentially, the programme provides a ‘How-to-guide’ for navigating the commercial fallout from Covid-19 and preparing for future growth. 

Success stories

This new programme builds on the success of the smaller scale ‘Leading to Grow’ programme and other similar programmes put in place by business schools. Leading to Grow ran at the start of this year and focused on micro businesses of one to nine employees.

There are examples up and down the country of successful collaborations. In Birmingham, with the support of Aston Business School, the founder of automation company Mechatronic Solutions transformed their engineering operations after completing the school’s servitisation programme. 

Also in the Midlands, Staffordshire University Business school helped one company, Potteries Print, offset a fall in its traditional order base by switching to new offline and online revenue streams. Notably these included sneeze screens, face coverings and similar Covid related safety products.

Further north, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School assisted one business specialising in online parenting support switch to delivering essential baby related supplies, such as nappies and formula milk, to parents who were in hardship or who were shielding.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ in the small to medium size business sector. Leadership programmes are designed to provide individually tailored advice for businesses that take the decision to sign-up. 

The Small Business Leadership Programme will provide the essential confidence and tools businesses need to both survive and thrive in this most difficult of trading environments.


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