5 ways to recession-ready your SME

5 min read  |   7 March, 2023   By Amy Rosoman

Animation of a woman standing on the right of a red, yellow, green semi-circle, pulling an arrow towards a happy face from a sad face and blank face

What do you know about future-proofing your people and business? Do you know that one way of doing this, is by implementing an agile culture? If you don’t know what this is, then this blog is for you.

We’re living through uncertain times, with numerous external influences making a constant impact on how businesses and people drive forward. With so many factors out of our control, it’s time to take the reins on what you can control.

Recently, we surveyed over 1400 SME employees from across the UK, to create edition three of our People First Culture Series, asking what they think of their current company culture. We’ve teamed up with Company Culture Coach, Lizzie Benton, to share what an agile culture can do for you.


Lizzie quote 2 - a culture where everyone is heard

What do employees really think about their company culture?


To understand how SME employees would describe the company culture they work for, we shared some focused options to find out how open to change the companies they work for are. There was an interesting split, but the majority flags that companies aren’t assertive when it comes to developing and improving.

PFCS3_graph1_blogOur research revealed that 46% of SME employees feel that the company culture they work within is ‘agile’ – in other words, can approach uncertainty with curiosity and openness. This is a good thing but these numbers highlight this is how the minority feels and that there is still a long way to go for most SME’s company culture.

With 33% of employees sharing that the companies they work for are holding back, ‘defaulting to the familiar’ and 21% reporting that they feel their company is ‘stuck in its way’ – what is stopping these companies from growth and adaptability? With these types of culture traits, they’re more likely to see issues in growth, innovation and retention.

It’s a change or be changed world. Whilst many businesses struggle to adapt and don’t know where to start, by adopting an agile culture, they will soon be able to see their company and people thrive. It might seem daunting, but by creating the type of environment where challenges are seen as opportunities, this can be a great place to begin.

"When businesses favour legacy and the familiar, they ultimately ignore alternative ways of doing things that can dramatically improve performance.

If the culture you've created doesn't move with the changing world, it becomes out of touch and woefully unproductive."

The way your company culture functions will have a huge impact on how your people perform. Agile company cultures call for all employees to bring their full potential to the business, and this is deeply satisfying for people, meaning engagement naturally increases.


Adapting your culture agility


Agility doesn’t just happen overnight, it’s something you have to consistently practice so that it becomes second nature in your company culture. When you embrace it, you’re no longer crippled by change, but fuelled by it.

Take some time to step back and look at your current processes. What’s getting in the way of you moving forward? Don’t feel like you need to do this alone – bring your people on the journey too, as they’ll have valuable perspectives to share.

"As a business you must create an agile company culture that can bounce back from the challenges that will occur.

People need the businesses they work with to be agile because it provides an environment where challenges, internal or external, are seen as learning opportunities that can be faced together."


Lizzie's 5 plays to put into action: 


  1. Discover what's holding agility back in the first place

    Take notes of anything getting in the way. This might include internal silos, communication barriers or a rigid mindset to change. To move forward, you have to know what’s getting in the way first.

  2. Choose one thing that feels safe to do differently in your company culture

    Pick a small experiment you can implement that doesn’t feel ‘risky’. For example, changing how you run meetings, or how you gain customer feedback. Consistent experiments like these, begin to foster a positive mindset in your culture that change is a good thing. As people begin to see more experiments become a success, they’re more likely to contribute their own improvements and suggestions.

  3. Host a 'What if?' workshop with your team

    Bring people together with a fun session where you talk about different scenarios that could impact your business. For example, what if there was a national electricity curfew, what would you do? Place all sorts of possible and impossible scenarios, and work together to discuss strategies. This helps build the mindset of agility. Doing this at least quarterly can help your team always see the solutions to challenges ahead, even the unexpected ones.

  4. Conduct regular retrospectives with your team to ensure you're always adapting the culture to meet the needs of people and the business

    The top three questions to ask yourselves are; what do we want to continue doing? (i.e. what’s working well in the culture) what do we want to stop doing (i.e. what’s not serving us), and what do we want to start doing? Ensure that after these sessions there are clear actions for people to take and accountability is set. We can’t just talk about improvements; we must action them.

  5. Reduce the amount of unnecessary processes and procedures in your culture that hinder agility

    Have a company-wide audit and eliminate anything that doesn’t have a purpose. Perhaps it’s by starting with culling some of those unnecessary meetings. Many of the strict processes we create in businesses limit agility rather than enabling it to flourish.

It’s time for you to future-proof your company culture. Learn to create an environment that can reap the rewards of a culture that doesn’t just survive challenges – but thrives through them.

Unlock Lizzie’s other 10 plays to action in the full playbook.

Download our People First Culture Series – Edition 3 today.




Author: Amy Rosoman

Amy is Breathe’s Content Marketing Manager. With over 8 years’ experience in content marketing & a BA in English Literature and Journalism (Upper Second-Class Honours), Amy is an enthusiastic content creator, ideas-maker, webinar presenter and video strategist. She’s also Breathe’s resident social media guru, and is experienced in all types of copywriting (there's no copy she can't create - try her, we dare you). Amy believes in healthy & happy company cultures where people can thrive.

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