Tips SMEs can learn from the Military to survive post-COVID

The UK's current generation of SMEs have never experienced a catastrophe quite like the Coronavirus pandemic. The disruption to trading has been highly detrimental, with a fifth of small firms expected to close due to the pandemic. As the nation enters a recession, too, small firms need as much help as possible to ensure they survive the fallout. Enter The Future Strategy Club, a new type of consultancy agency, dedicated to helping firms of all sizes with the COVID storm. They have gathered the top strategic thinkers and businesses brains to compile a new Best in Business Guide, filled with tips and advice to help firms navigate through the uncertainty.

The first member to contribute to this Survival Guide is The FSC Advisor Gareth Tennant. Gareth was a Regular Royal Marine for 11 years, rising to the Head of Intelligence role, and now owns his own business strategy firm - Decision Advantage - which uses the knowledge and lessons learned from his military experience to help firms through times of complexity. Now in the UK, the pandemic has launched businesses owners into perhaps the most complex time ever as lockdown ceased trading for many SMEs.

Gareth shares the lessons both the military and businesses can take from each other in the wake of COVID:

What do you think are the biggest parallels between the military and the world of business? 

"For this, I think it is important to understand where the two worlds are different and to then figure out where they come together. Ultimately, the modern business world is built from structures born from the industrial era, meaning firms aim to outdo competitors in efficiency, speed and price. There are lessons to be learned from the military, who have thousands of years of experience in structuring people. In complex times especially, both businesses and militaries learn lessons in a more organic way - but often the military is a couple of steps ahead. The military learns things the hard way, from the attrition of warfare, which are then translated and applied to business. This can even be seen in the language that is used in the professional world where we are starting to talk about ‘insurgent’ start-up companies and ‘asymmetric’ marketing campaigns.

For me, it's really important that we bring across the right lessons. There are some things that the military does really well that the commercial sector can learn from; and then there are also things that the military does quite terribly, which they need to learn from the commercial sector.

At the moment, I think there are key lessons in routinely managing teams in uncertain situations. This is something that is quite new in the commercial world, but that happens day in, day out in the military."

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