Westpomerania Region and pandemic times in CCI

Westpomerania Region and pandemic times in CCI

Most of the surveyed organizations do not plan to close their business, nor dismiss their employees. People working in the creative industries have narrow professional competences (product design, fashion or visual communication, interior architecture, photography), which helps to diversify the scope and range of services they are offering on the market.

Therefore, entrepreneurs are trying to be flexible as they can. In a short period of time, until the end of 2020, entrepreneurs react quite calmly. In the long term (over a year), fear has already „bigger eyes” because the variables or premises on which decisions can be made simply do not exist. Therefore, it is very difficult for organizations to prophesy what their situation will be, which is quite natural in this situation. Currently, the activities on which entrepreneurs from creative industries focus in Szczecin are in the order from the most to the least important:

  1. we have increased the number of remote meetings with clients;
  2. we are looking for new opportunities on the market;
  3. we look at the situation and make decisions flexibly;
  4. we moved to the online world with sales;
  5. we are working on the strategy;
  6. turnover is falling, but the liquidity is still there, we do not dismiss employees, but it is not clear for how long;
  7. we maintain promotional activities at the current level by changing only sales campaigns and channels;
  8. half of the respondents undertook activities of a social responsibility nature, e.g. sewing masks „or supporting activities already undertaken in social media;
  9. we are not looking for a recovery plan from experts and specialists;
  10. new investors ready to invest in a new idea on the horizon can not be seen.

Definitely the critical situation concerns young (established in the last two years) and one-person service companies. Half of them do not know if they will survive in the next two months. Those who work for one client as subcontractors have long-term commitments, and so far they do not change much. Entrepreneurs who work on the border of creative industries and other industries (e.g. IT / food) are definitely better off from those for which
the demand increases during the crisis. Here the tasks are proceed according to plan and projects are implemented. Companies with more than 10 employees, so far say that, for example:

„A completely new project has appeared.” or „We are still completing formal matters: I hope so, but I am not sure” „Yes, but I do not know if the project will not be stopped suddenly, because the situation is changing dynamically.”

And although everyone feels uncertainty, projects are managed, and a lot of activities take place remotely without major turbulence. Where strategic thinking and business security have not been developed, no new projects have been launched since March 2020.

In this situation, the characteristics of creative industry entrepreneurs are highlighted by high dispersion and solo work. That is, the surveyed organizations are for the most part sole proprietorships or two-person design studios – in which everyone works for themselves.

Larger organizations are advertising agencies or IT companies employing from 12 to 149 people in which specialists work in design management, UX design or broadly understood visual communication. This image is also colored by non-governmental organizations that operate niche and are oriented either on the support of the creative or IT industry, or on social innovation in the areas of smaller towns and villages.

Compared to traditional sector companies, creative people work alone as part of a network, build teams for projects, do work, and move to new teams and projects. Flexibility is the advantage of creative industries over traditional sectors. In the surveyed organizations, we rarely deal with a larger organizational structure – a hierarchical one, which imposes
methods of action and cooperation. This does not mean that these organizations operate from day to day. Everyone will look for a stable leg in business. This sense of security gives them work for one client in long term contacts. At the same time, it is obvious to everyone that working with Western European companies mean better work standards and higher

The creative industry is made up of young people who are not focused on building and organizing business, but on creative work and implementation of interesting projects. That is why, whenever it is possible, they work for clients from Poland, Europe and the world, living in Szczecin. Those who have built a small or medium business are managers whose businesses are close to 20 years of doing business. Contrary to appearances, they are entrepreneurs aged 40-50 who have not reached the age of mentoring young people and their business. And here we have a system gap. The young generation wants to develop, and there is nobody to learn business management competences from. Leaving universities they
do not have this knowledge, so they walk blindly, stumbling over the repeated mistakes made by their experienced and senior colleagues – managers. No competences in running a business in a pandemic situation is the deciding factor for surviving on the market.

The question that we have no answer today is whether young organizations want to build companies – large teams with a hierarchical structure, or prefer to work in a network, and independently decide on the project challenges undertaken. Following this lead, another feature of the creative industry is emerging, which is relationships. Work in the industry requires relationships and a network of contacts, and they determine the scale of business. Long-lasting relationships, based on trust and determine the survival of the organization in an emergency situation, which is a pandemic
today. The scope of relations – the region / country / world determines the stability and maturity of the organization (calculated in the years of its operation), decides on relationships and contracts that ethically allow to stay afloat. Entrepreneurs say that:
„Everyone understands the current situation and in many cases is willing to give equipment to employees home, if the ability to continue working depends on it.”
„Loyalty is a condition for mutual survival at the moment.”
„Our clients behave ethically. We mutually understand the situations and try to find a good
way out for both sides. „
„Customers behave smoothly, they even care about others during a pandemic.”
„The contracts are signed with reliable and solvent business partners.”
Particularly those whose production – of physical facilities takes place in places over 200 km away will have to work on the subject of relations and cooperation: „In principle, the problem is with customers who were production-related with China and sales in the West. They have gigantic liquidity problems.”

When it comes to support for creative industries, 4 tools have been proposed in Poland:

  1. National, focused on the NCK culture industries – „Culture on the Web” is a grant program of the National Center of Culture worth PLN 15 million, launched on the initiative of the deputy prime minister, prof. Piotr Gliński, from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the so-called anti-crisis shield (focused on those organizations that have experience);
  2. Crisis shield and support for all enterprises in Poland, e.g. exemption or postponement of the ZUS contribution payment (entrepreneurs are still awaiting a decision in this matter). Entrepreneurs have so far used the crisis shield in the scope of their exemption from ZUS.
    Other national, regional and local tools are „unknown” for entrepreneurs or „I have not yet analyzed all the support options”.
  3. Regional, RPO – (eg Proto_Lab’s proposal, directed to universities for research and development projects related to the fight against Coronavirus (currently there are no guidelines or projects on cooperation between science and business);
  4. Local – Solidarny Szczecin, where you can buy a voucher for the service of e.g. an architect or hairdresser and redeem it in a deferred time.

The vast majority stated that:
Ad. 1 Culture on the web – „does not know if it meets the project criteria and” I hear for the first time „or” no, because such projects are too bureaucratic „,” I have no need – for now the situation is stable, even if I qualified it is better to leave such funds to those who have real problems.”
Ad 2. Crisis shield – entrepreneurs say that „I have already used it, because in this way I will save money just in case I lost my contract, I can also support local projects (masks, hospitals, food producers and suppliers).” and „I will” or „I have already benefited from the postponement of ZUS contributions,” „This is not the support I would count on as an entrepreneur. the proposed limits include income – which has nothing to do with income. ” One conclusion that is explicit is that information about the support did not reach the enterprises, besides the „crisis shield” which concerns running a business as such. The vast majority have not received information about other potential support instruments and do not want or cannot use it.
Ad3. Regional RPO programs are described by entrepreneurs as: „I have financial liquidity and long-term contracts.”, These projects are „demanding bureaucracy” and „I do not know if I meet the criteria” or „activities in current projects have obtained approval from the EU has a shift.”
Ad. 4 Solidarny Szczecin is an unrecognized support tool by entrepreneurs; they do not plan or will use this form of assistance: „I have no such need – for now the situation is stable”; „It’s not for me”.

To sum up, the creative sectors are a distributed industry in which sole proprietorships dominate. People working in the industry are specialists with high professional competence, extremely flexible in action and focused on ethical relations in business. They create national and international networks of business connections around each other that allow for stable management of the organization. In a crisis situation, it is the flexibility and size of the organization that allows them to survive and revise plans for the near future.

Mature managers – focused on their business, do not support their knowledge and experience of young companies who have just entered the market. Which causes that „young” struggle with the loss of clients, financial liquidity and are on the verge of closing the company. This gap remains to be filled.

Organizations belonging to the creative industries do not recognize themselves as part of this sector. Therefore, from the bottom-up industry, pressure is not generated that provokes changes in the provisions of regional and municipal regulations, EU subsidies for development, and which relate to supporting this sector during the crisis we have today.

The article was created as part of the Creative Ports project.

Author: dr Magdalena Małachowska

Creative Ports is a project funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme of the European Union, running from September 2018 to August 2021. It is a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).