Lancaster University asks North West business owners to keep Covid-19 diaries


A man at a desk, writing a diary in front of a computer

Business owners across the North West are being encouraged to keep diaries of their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is working with entrepreneurs throughout Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and beyond to record how the virus, government lockdown and restrictions on trade and businesses are affecting them.

Entrepreneurs from the food production, IT services, manufacturing and professional services sectors are already taking part, keeping diaries to record events and business decisions, along with the feelings and circumstances that surround them.

The results have already revealed how many of the business owners, who operate within the region and globally, questioned what to do in the early days of the pandemic, but have since had moments of clarity which have allowed them to make incisive decisions and move forward.

The LUMS team hope more entrepreneurs will join the scheme, allowing them to gain a better picture of business behaviour during these unprecedented times.

“We could conduct interviews after the event, but you will always get a view through rose-tinted spectacles, without recalling all the gory details,” said LUMS Teaching Fellow Brian Gregory. “The information we already have is fantastic – it’s earthy, it’s basic and in some cases it is quite brutal. 

“Entrepreneurial thinking captured in textbooks is overwhelmingly positive. But what makes entrepreneurs resilient? I can already say a number of entrepreneurs in our region spent the first few weeks thinking ‘what’s going to happen now? This is awful.’ But then, one day, got out of bed and thought ‘this is how we are going to go forward'. They find that spark and off they go.

“So they have records of when they are feeling really bad, when things start to get better, when they have some success. We see what is happening with their mindsets when they make decisions. Decisions themselves are easy to document, but it’s the thought processes and the environment that we are exploring.

“The longer we have businesses keeping these diaries, the more we will learn about the decision-making process and how entrepreneurs behave in a crisis. If we get to an understanding of their thought processes, we can help them and other entrepreneurs in future with their actions. This is not limited to Covid-19, but applies to all kinds of crisis.”

The diaries can prove beneficial for the entrepreneurs taking part, giving them an outlet for their feelings and allowing them to look back and realise how far they have come. Findings will also be used to shape teaching for Lancaster University Management School students, to help equip the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Brian added: “The diaries can provide a sense of release, a feeling of having shared a problem. When they go back and read through – and some of them have already been doing this – they see that things are getting better, you are not just living in the moment, and can go back to see why you have made certain decisions. It helps them to understand themselves better and the situation they are in.”

Entrepreneurs who would like to take part in the diary programme are asked to contact Brian Gregory via email: b.gregory1@lancaster.ac.uk

Entrepreneurship and Strategy is one of six academic departments within Lancaster University Management School. Alongside cutting-edge research and leading academics, the department is supported by LUMS' Entrepreneurs in Residence - a network of more than 50 entrepreneurs who bring insight from the frontline of business to help shape teaching and compliment academic research.

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