What kind of flag are you waving?

Are you proudly waving your company flag or have you got out your white hanky in defeat? We are looking at resilience – and right now it is being tested by every UK business and resident. I’m seeing these two responses in all manner of situations, some surprising, some less so. Which one are you and how can we help?

Are you defeated?
Are you waving your white flag?

It’s completely understandable to be overwhelmed by current circumstances. Everything is uncertain. Decisions we make now might not endure over even the short-term. We have never had to operate through such dramatic times with closures and developments happening literally overnight.

You may have temporarily lost your market. Personal care, leisure, gyms and other sectors have been hard hit, it’s true. But there are still glimmers of light for every business. Some businesses are allowed to operate but fear prevents them from pressing on. Others might need to reset and do things differently but they might lack the courage, energy or imagination to think past an oppressive list of negatives.

Customers don’t hang about while you rest, hide or close. They will be loyal to a degree but by allowing them to slip away, you’re risking their inevitable long-term loss. Businesses who are operating successfully will be positive and shiny, and therefore seductive and enticing.

The ‘can-do’ business

Are you waving your flag positively?

Restrictions mean that many businesses have had to find an alternative route to market. We’ve seen some incredible success stories and clever thinking. It’s all about being light of foot and able to identify a need in the market (even if it’s temporary) and fulfilling that need because you can.

You might have the products, the transport and the staff to offer a great service – but most importantly it’s because you have the idea and the motivation to see it through.

These types of businesses would say something like “this is a shitty situation, but our customers need us, so we have to find a way of making this work”. They come up with a way to continue to operate, enabling them to serve customers, keep staff in jobs – whilst continuing to make a profit. And quite often, these businesses have started providing a new service or totally changed business.

We all know of… pubs who provide a take-away food service. Hairdressers who deliver customer’s hair colour to their door. Catering businesses who operate an essentials food delivery service. Gyms and personal trainers who (when allowed) offer outdoor, small session alternatives. Physios consulting online via Zoom. Even large-scale events teams, by learning the technology super quick, are turning out impressive, international events online. How could you fail to be inspired by these types of businesses, these types of individuals?

In many instances, their new way of operating – through adapting to forced change in a lean, focused way, has made them extra innovative and has probably highlighted numerous business efficiencies.

Case study: Premier Education

One of the franchise businesses that I co-own, Premier Education, runs children’s exercise sessions through school clubs and holiday camps. Naturally it has been impacted by the pandemic.

Since March of last year all schools have predominantly been shut and only open to key workers. This meant that 30% of revenue was wiped off due to all after school activities being cancelled for the spring/summer term. As we moved closer to the summer holidays, we planned financially that all of our holiday camps would not be operational. Meanwhile, whilst we were fully prepared for them to close, we planned for them to open.

Interestingly ALL of our competitors chose to shut down during this period, EVEN though they were all allowed to operate! Not only did we have the best summer we’ve ever had (selling out on all of our camps) but PM Boris Johnson visited our venue as a showcase for safe operating during Covid19, which was broadcast across all the national press.

So, what does resilience look like in a business?

1. Staff happiness and well being

If your staff are happy then it is easier for them to deal with moments of stress during challenging periods. If they are not happy and constantly have a low level of stress bubbling away then it’s much harder to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Implement structure with daily/weekly meetings on a consistent basis. Order and structure provide familiarity and is comforting. It also helps everyone feel involved and part of the process.

Clear communication – if there are going to be changes and potential job losses then it’s important to deliver the message (to avoid hearsay and worry). Do not lie or bend the truth as its always easier to move forward with confidence and clarity if everybody understands the situation.

2. Financial Reserves

A business that doesn’t have a rainy-day fund will inevitably come unstuck at some point in the lifetime of the business. The business may well continue to run profitably but if they are not being paid as quickly as they would hope then it could be easy to literally run out of cash.

Overdraft facilities – these should be in place before you need them.

Seek loans, even if you don’t feel like you will need them, it’s easier to get them when you don’t need them – a bank will not want to lend you the money when you’re in sticky corner.

3. Leadership

Decision making is crucial. Don’t make hasty decisions. Make decisions based on factual evidence. Equally, don’t delay in making key decisions. Once you have the facts, understand your path and make a start.

Know your numbers – a good leader should have a grasp on where the business is at any one point.

Reassure your team that they’re doing a great job and provide confidence balanced with reality. Share the operating plan, tell your team what is planned and how it’s going to be achieved. Encourage and listen to feedback, your team will know some areas of your business better than you do. Be prepared to adjust plans according to good advice.

4. Mindset

Resilience is about not giving up. If your plan makes sense and you have outlined a path to achieve it, keep focused on each step.

Take care of yourself – sleep, eat, exercise, take time out. These are all vital for your well-being and ability to continue into the longer term successfully.

Understand that if it’s hard for your business it must be hard for your competitors and others in your market. Keep an eye on them and note anything of interest – good or bad, learn from them but don’t be distracted by them.

Continually push the team to grow, even when this may seem the last thing that should be being done. Oddly this is proving to be a successful time for training and development companies, especially those who offer short, easy to digest courses that keep people interested and engaged.

5. Contingency planning

Plan for the worst, hope for the best – there should be multiple budget forecasts that allow you to plan for the absolute worst-case scenario. Understand at which operational points in your business you will need to reduce costs and have some ideas on how you can do this.

Positively, also plan for growth. Look at future funding and expansion planning and be prepared to invest, recruit, collaborate or diversify if the opportunity presents itself.

6. See the opportunities

Fear generally means opportunity. Understand that in any challenging situation there are always opportunities. Ask yourself what is within your grasp. Look around – who is doing well and why?

The decisions we make now are the only ones we have. To be resilient is to face facts and create a workable plan to take you forward. There may be obstacles and barriers along the way – when isn’t there? There will inevitably be some rerouting and things you hadn’t considered. What is sure though is that a strong mindset and some support (that’s what we’re here for) will get you most of the way.

Pick your flag.

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