Passing the agility stress test

How EMEA private businesses are building resilience to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Private Business Survey 2020

EMEA Private Business Survey 2020

Performance under pressure:

While private businesses in Europe, Middle East and Africa have seen a major impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, agility is paying off in improved performance.

Focusing on resilience is as important as ever. The current operational and financial challenges that private companies are facing make this pandemic an agility stress test for their business models. Leaders whose companies have been able to combine flexibility with a focus on people, technology and their customers, “agility champions”, report better profitability and expect stronger performance in the future.

Agility champions have had to make tough choices regarding workforce and cost reduction. However, they are also leading the way when it comes to sustaining their business during a crisis and laying the foundation to emerge stronger from it.


EMEA Private Business Survey launch webcast presented by Peter Englisch, Global Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany.

Watch the webcast replay

What sets “agility champions” apart?

Our definition of agility is based on a holistic approach; “agility champions” are customer-focused, people-driven, tech-enabled, and flexible.

These companies are making future-focused decisions, enabled by strong leadership and a robust company culture, to enhance their resilience. That helps them when it comes time to cope with external shocks and provides a strong foundation for future success.

Five key investments to stay competitive

In order to better manage not just the pandemic, but beyond, and adapt to whatever disruption the future holds, agility champions are differentiating themselves by investing in five key topics to keep their businesses competitive:

Reshaping the workforce for tomorrow

The surveyed private businesses across EMEA are largely implementing working from home models. However, agility champions are able to create an opportunity from the shift to remote work; they invest in training and upskilling staff to better prepare their workforce for the future.

Improving the bottom line without compromising competitiveness

To protect cash flow and cope with drops in revenue, agility champions are not only implementing cost saving plans, but also working to find new sources of revenue. They are reviewing their business models, increasing use of new technologies and investing in innovation in order to differentiate their companies.

Flexible strategies, driven by a strong customer focus and collaborative approach

With the customer at the heart of everything they do, agility champions are focusing on understanding their market deeply in order to offer services and products that bring value to their client segments. They are strategising alliances with partners and start-ups, prioritising mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and investing in value creation.

Commitment to social responsibility

Committed to sustainability, social issues and the environment, agility champions are aiming for long-term growth while keeping in mind that their businesses also have a societal role to play. They ranked sustainable business practices higher than any other consideration, as a must for future success.

Transforming the future business

Agility champions are investing in transforming their businesses for future growth in a variety of ways, they are increasing the use of new technologies as well as adapting their business model. These strategic decisions are also coming from the next generation of leaders (NextGen), agility champions believe that getting the NextGen more involved will be critical for the future.

“More agility translates into greater resiliency for the future. The most agile private businesses are not only better able to navigate through the current pandemic by adapting to market environments. They are also transforming their business by focussing on sustainability through technology, and actively integrating the “NextGen”. That's helping them emerge even stronger from the pandemic.”

Peter EnglischGlobal Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany

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Contact us

Peter Englisch

Peter Englisch

Global Family Business Leader and EMEA Entrepreneurial & Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany

Adnan  Zaidi

Adnan Zaidi

Partner, EPB, PwC Middle East

Tel: 971 56 682 0630

Gert Allen

Gert Allen

Africa Private Company Services Leader, Partner, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27-0117976101