Testing Resilience.

If resilience is defined as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’, then 2020 has been a time when that mental elasticity and practical application has never been more essential for business owners.

Keeping going can be tough.

The last year has seen many businesses move from a sustainable or strong position into months of disruption, decline and challenge. To say we are in it together, is a phrase that just does not ring true for me. Yes, we are in it, but each in our own, specific way. Even as business owners, there are those whose sales are great, but the team is remote, those who can’t trade / are massively restricted, those who have seen their client base vanish over-night, the list goes on and on.

Philip Hesketh used the analogy that we were all on the lake each in our own canoes (https://youtu.be/5O7wLuSkV9w?t=311) a brilliant session which is worth the watch! I would take it further and suggest that as business owners we are in stormy seas and we have the challenge of looking after a variety of ships and boats… worse we have to jump between them, the view is different from each and some are boats within ships, some are personal, some are business and the pushes and pulls drag us in a cycle of conflict. To my mind this leaves us in the position where, as business owners we have the need to view the world from multiple paradigms (in a way few others must).

This means we have to understand the protection of life for our families and teams; we have to acknowledge the risk to the NHS and the vulnerable; we need to pay attention to the damage to the economy; the disruption of our customers; the fear; the loss of revenues; the threat of redundancies; the risk to families and balance this against the opportunity or indeed threat to our business survival. In fact, as business owners there has never been a time when Steven Covey’s 5th habit (seek first to understand, then to be understood) has been more difficult to achieve.

This means being a business owner is, for many, tougher now than ever. To be honest, being a business owner for most is a journey, a bit like constantly climbing a mountain, yes there is the reward of looking out across the most amazing views and the satisfaction of looking down the mountain to see how far you have come, but every step forward is up the hill. Whilst there is an occasional chair-lift to give you a boost, for thousands of businesses the last few months have been filled with landslides, avalanches and crumbling cliff faces!

Resilience runs in a curve, demonstrated beautifully by the most articulate Steve Judge (please watch the video for the full impact!) The curve runs through the stages of shock, denial, anger, sharing, reaching rock bottom before acceptance drives action to allow us to move forward. Finding that resilience once is impressive (Steve’s book “Don’t Lean on Your Excuses” is his inspirational story), businesses are being asked to find it again and again. So, keeping your resilience high, keeping that forward focus and the ability to continuously take action to progress takes courage, energy and constant re-framing.

So, if that is what we are facing, how can we maintain resilience? Here are my top 9 tips for you and most businesses. They are mine, but please use them if they help.

1. Look after yourself. Keep fit, mentally and physically. We are all taking a mental bashing at the moment (just because of the disruption to our normal lives). It is okay to acknowledge times are tough (positive mental attitude is great… but watch out for denial). Give yourself permission to spend time on yourself, by yourself to understand how you are feeling about things. If you are concerned, talk to others, call one of the many support services or actively seek professional help. Stay active, yes, the gyms, tennis courts, football clubs etc are shut. Yes, we are in the middle of lockdown and the nights close in early and it is easy to stay in, eat junk and watch tv (which has its place). Yes, sometimes wine o’clock starts a bit early, but eating well and making sure you stay active helps you to deal with the day to day and keep pushing your business forward.

2. Don’t forget your plans. Both for you and your business. It might be difficult to look beyond lockdown, Christmas or January. The plans you had back in January may have been achieved or may have evaporated into the mystery that is 2020, but they are probably still relevant (if not revisit them). Put them back in place and then for the business run with your long term plan (more of the aspirational position you want to achieve), your mid-term plan (the stepping stone that makes sense), your short-term plan (9-18 months of practical implementation), your 90 day plan (what needs to happen right now to move you forward, clear goals and actions), your ‘this month’ plan (achievements and clarity for this calendar month accommodating the unexpected), your weekly plan and your daily plan (your to-do list). Make your plans easy to follow, clear and concise. For yourself, set the goals and make them happen. Always, always write them down.

3. Lighthouse thinking… On a visit to Portland Bill Lighthouse I learned something that has been useful for my business ever since. Have a plan for every eventuality. If the lamp fails in a lighthouse the consequences are pretty severe right? So, if the bulb blows as second comes up automatically, if that goes a third (smaller) comes up whilst the main bulb can be replaced. To reduce the chance of this they replace the bulbs every 2000 hours. Should all these plans fail they sound the foghorn and change the bulbs (there are only so many plans they can have). Now that is for the bulb, but they have plans for the electricity too! Therefore, stay resilient by having plans for different scenarios, recognise cut off points, stay in control and you are less likely to get caught out.

4. Don’t be a superhero, an island, a silo or the font of all knowledge. It is easy to feel that you must have all the answers, that you have to solve the problems of the world. Please accept that you probably don’t, and you probably can’t (if you can please give me a call as a matter of urgency as I need you). Talk to your peers, your coach, your customers and your team.

5. Look after your team. Remember they are going through difficult times too. Working or ‘on Furlough’ (not working) from home erodes culture and changes the work ethic. Many will be working harder and longer than ever (how long can they do this), others juggling family life around work (always a challenge), some loving it and others just hating the isolation. Give them choices where you can, support them where you can and be accommodating where you can. Recognising their position will help you with yours and will make your business stronger. If you are looking for ways to engage your team, speak to Joanne Rolliston, she is an expert in connecting teams and getting the best out of them!

6. Watch your numbers. Numbers are always the floor for a business, lose sight of them at your peril. Pay attention to cash-flow and profit (the usual financial numbers). Also consider productivity, output, individual performance and other key performance indicators for your business, know what is going on (it doesn’t mean you can change it, but at worst you won’t be taken by surprise). Resilience comes from recovering quickly and the quickest way to recognise that you need to recover is to know where the pain is, and your business will show you this in the numbers.

7. Marketing, marketing, marketing. So, many businesses have gone quiet. Make sure your customers know you are there, make sure your prospects see you. Do not quietly slip into 2021, rather arrive with a bang! To build the resilience into your business you need to be positioned to push forward and to have your marketing ready and rolling.

8. Never give up. Things can be tough. But if you want a rule that will help you achieve more Jim Lawless gave us this one (https://youtu.be/O8Pt4DFncyM?t=2). Your plans may change, your direction may change. But make this your mantra. Never, never give up. There is the inevitable rule that no matter whether things are going well or bad the truth is ‘this too will pass’. The one caveat I place on this is to always challenge yourself as to whether you are pushing in the right direction and doing the right things… if not, stop it, don’t give up, find the right direction and the right things. Commit 100% to your future.

9. Take action. Sitting still will get you nowhere so it is essential for every business to be acting right now. Not without thought or measure – fear and knee jerk reactions often lead to the wrong activity or even no activity. Therefore, consider your choices, look at the options, give yourself time, for yourself and to step out of your business to evaluate the situation and decide the course (strategy). Then make your plans. Only then can you action them, one step at a time. Resilience comes from having the capacity to recover quickly and taking the first step is often the hardest.

We are here to help, if you would like to see how we can, get in touch! We are always happy to have a conversation to see where we can assist you and your business.