What can SMEs learn from Theresa May’s spectacular failure?

According to Smith & Williamson's John Morris, the uncertainty following the general elections could be a growth opportunity for SMEs. Here's why.

The political arena is in turmoil (again!), the economy is facing a period of uncertainty and volatility and Brexit negotiations are set to begin in nine days’ time!  Time to down tools until it all calms down?  

Not according to John Morris, scale-up business lead and partner at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group, who urges small business leaders to take the lessons of this election and keep growing fantastic businesses.

“A third election shock in less than a year has left the political arena in utter chaos and business leaders are having to manage expectations in a turbulent environment.  Entrepreneurs, start-ups and those looking to scale-up can’t wait for politicians to sort themselves out.  However, good business practice remains constant and with that businesses can still prosper,” said John.

Nearly two thirds of business leaders believed a Tory majority would have benefited their business in new research conducted right up to polling day by Smith & Williamson.

Good leadership is crucial

The ScaleUp Institute has identified Leadership as one of its six scale-up gaps – the critical areas a business must focus on in order to scale successfully.  For Theresa May, and the Conservative party, the lack of leadership has been damningly rewarded with a loss of majority at the polls at a crucial juncture in our parliamentary history.

“We have seen failings of leadership at the very highest level and business leaders should take these lessons to heart when considering how they run their business.  Theresa May made two spectacular leadership mistakes in the General Election and the lead up to it; she didn’t have the right set of advisers working with her and was seemingly not self-aware enough to know her own strengths and weaknesses,” said John.

A business, and a political party, doesn’t need yes men

“Reports would suggest that Theresa May surrounded herself with a very tight knit, but small group of advisers which, perhaps, didn’t allow her views to be robustly challenged and considered.  In business, as in politics, it is vital that you take selective advice from informed individuals.  You don’t necessarily have to act upon each piece of advice but it helps develop a much fuller picture of the environment in which you are operating.”

“In this instance, if Theresa May had a wider circle of advisers, some with conflicting opinions and points of view to her own, would she have called an election against a man who had successfully won two elections to be leader of his own party, proving himself to be a compelling and seasoned campaigner in the process.

Know your limitations and act on them

Being really good at something is likely what has got any entrepreneur or start-up leader to the position they are in.  However, at some point they need to transition from working in their business to working on their business.  Successful leaders acknowledge their limitations and either bring in additional help or actively develop their own skills.

“Theresa May doesn’t appear to have learnt this lesson.  Her no-nonsense style arguably worked well as she led the Home Office, however she has had difficulties translating that style to No 10, side-lining colleagues and alienating the electorate.”  

“A brilliant example was the debate; leadership debates are now expected in any election campaign, any absence will hurt those not there. If May didn’t have the required debating skills should she have sought more training?  If she thought that even with that extra training she couldn’t manage a debate, should she have called an election?”

“It is vital that a business leader is aware of themselves, the business and what is going on in their own environment. Theresa May’s leadership failings provide some poignant, and cautionary, lessons to business leaders across the country.”

John Morris is scale-up business lead and partner at Smith & Williamson.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics

General Elections