EY survey: 60pc of entrepreneurs expect normal trade in 12 months

21 May 2020

Image: © wedninth/Stock.adobe.com

EY’s latest survey has found that many Irish entrepreneurs remain positive despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis.

Professional services firm EY has released the findings of a Covid-19 pulse survey that was carried out among EY Entrepreneur of the Year alumni in Ireland. It surveyed 90 former winners and finalists of the programme to get an idea of the challenges they are facing in the current crisis.

The survey found that entrepreneurs across the island of Ireland remain positive, with 60pc of respondents anticipating a return to normal trading conditions with 12 months.

However, EY said that many of the findings from the pulse survey “contrast starkly” from its last survey, which was carried out among 120 entrepreneurs in the final quarter of 2019. At that time, 85pc of entrepreneurs surveyed said they planned to increase staff numbers in the 12 months ahead.

Just five months later, 47pc of those surveyed have reduced their headcount. But despite the current challenging circumstances, 55pc told EY that they plan to increase their headcount in 2021.

‘Faced with very tough decisions’

EY said that swift action by the Government in providing “much-needed supports” for enterprise has been acknowledged, with 70pc of the respondents saying that they found the Government supportive at this time.

Roger Wallace, partner lead for EY Entrepreneur of the Year, 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.”

Wallace said that there is a “definite acknowledgement” from the 90 surveyed entrepreneurs that they are facing major short-term challenges, but they are remaining positive and looking for solutions to the issues they face.

“Many businesses across the island will no doubt be faced with very tough decisions when it is safe and viable for them to reopen and how business will look in the future,” Wallace said.

“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.”

A drop in revenue

According to EY, 76pc of the survey respondents have seen revenues fall so far this year, but half expect to increase revenue in 2021. Just over a quarter (28pc) said that the lack of certainty makes it “impossible” to predict revenues for the coming year.

After almost two months of widespread business closures, the three top challenges cited by respondents were forecasting uncertainty, reduced sales and the opening of international markets.

“Leading a company through a crisis can be a very lonely position to be in,” Wallace added. “It is critical that entrepreneurs are supported through this. I’ve heard countless stories reflecting the value of using networks of likeminded individuals who can be an invaluable source of independent and unbiased support, advice and insight.”

Wallace said that many businesses have seen their value proposition and business models challenged during this crisis, but that EY has seen “innovation and resilience” in entrepreneurs rising to meet those challenges.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic