By Peter Rolliston.
How have we supported business during lockdown?
Lockdown was always going to be a severe business interruption, and whilst the Stay Home, Save Lives and Protect the NHS was the focus for the Government, it was clear our focus needed to be on supporting our community, preparing for the future and saving businesses. That is exactly what we set out to do. We started by moving all clients to weekly sessions on Zoom (with more support as needed). Created a ‘hub’ of knowledge for emerging stages built around the information provided via various media, clients ‘on the ground’ in various locations around the world, and our international ActionCOACH network. We added 2 webinars per week. Tuesday at 8.30 to provide motivation, ideas, and support from the very best, Paul Dunn, Philip Hesketh, Jim Lawless, Steve Judge and our local celeb Alison Edgar to name just a few. Friday at 9 to provide expert information on subjects relevant to businesses right now, from the HR Department to the British Business Bank. With a team capable of giving solid business guidance for most situations we have, and continue to offer, gifted advise sessions to any business looking to drive their business through the coming weeks and months.
How has this crisis affected our business?
Well to start with we have become crazy busy with dealing with what is now ‘normal’ (I don’t believe there is a ‘new normal’… rather normal is just what we need to adapt to and work with… and the normal we have this week is likely to be different again next week). Our revenues, along with those of many clients, have taken a massive hit, and we are grateful to the clients who have been able to help us through the last few months, as indeed we hope all our clients appreciate the support we offer (their feedback would suggest so which is incredible). There were tears when we left our office, The Progress Shed, to work from home and splitting our team has been hard on us all. Exciting times though as we are currently building offices within our event space to create our ‘socially (together) distanced’ offices.
How are businesses coping?
Businesses are in various stages coming through this time. Initially, we modeled the emotional journey against that of the 7 stages of grief, working through the shock and denial to anger and depression before progressing to the hope and rebuild – this has been surprisingly accurate. Few businesses have been unaffected, some have gained, the vast majority have been pushed into an enforced state of paralysis. Many have stayed there. More and more are waking up and driving forward. As small businesses there is a strength and resilience that needs to be recognised. Businesses can and will cope… if they don’t they will struggle to recover or even survive. So, if we refer to Steve Judge’s model, the wave or resilience. Businesses started in a state of shock and denial, for most this has now passed. Many are now waking up to a degree of anger (the news is fuelling this at the moment, hindsight gives them an amazing ability to point out the failings of decisions made). Frustratingly many are colluding in the ‘doom and gloom’ approach, the “there’s nothing we can do about it”, the “we’ll just have to see where it goes” approach, to my mind this isn’t coping, it is staying firmly back in denial! So, at this point, coping = action. It is getting things moving to sell your way forward, to find a route and create a plan, flexible, and clear enough to follow.
How Businesses are adapting
Well, that depends on the business. All our clients are adapting and changing to the current situation, I say current because things are moving so fast at the moment. For some the primary job is to survive, for others to transform and for others to perform. This has involved some running deliberate strategies to create new contacts, others to completely re-invent the business to reach different and new markets and for others to reposition themselves, their marketing, systems and teams to give themselves the opportunity to not only bounce back but to bounce higher!
Wow, well the challenges are rolling. Cash flow was an initial fear for many, working from home, how to market, what to sell, when to sell, how to move forward. Then, how to manage the team, how to lead the team, how to keep motivation and how to move forward. Now, when to get back to the office / workplace, whether to remain at work, who to un-furlough, when to un-furlough, how to get the marketing working, timing of anything. And in the background, probably the biggest challenge is the ‘what if’ scenarios that keep running round our heads, our businesses, the news all of which lead to the question of ‘what should I do next’… indecision, uncertainty and paralysis will damage businesses is almost certainly be one of the most significant challenges for businesses finding their feet in the next few weeks / months.
Key areas to work on with businesses now
Initially, the core elements for survival and recovery… I have 12 of them… Communication, Outlook, Change, Cuts, Credit, Team, Work away from Work, On-line, Customer Service, Marketing, Selling and Common Sense. Ensuring survival is step 1. Stepping up to drive and sell your way forward is step 2. Positioning your business to thrive is step 3.
Right now… I am working on stage 2 and 3 with all my clients. This is really around creating relevant plans (accounting for variances and risk), measuring the tone of communication-based on the current state of your market, challenging your plans every day, reviewing the team (cuts, recruitment and resources), strategy for existing & new clients and what and how you are selling right now.
We’ve busy with lots of supportive online events so future plans in June/ July/ August.
We are keeping our webinar series running (we have some incredible speakers lined up over the coming weeks). Following requests from clients, we will be introducing our first Get the Edge online progression course from July, these are interactive, fun, educational coaching sessions to get the drive into any small, emerging or developing business. Added to this Jo and Nigel are running regular sessions to help businesses understand how to support their teams (and to make them more productive) in the current state of normal. In addition to this we are recording a variety of new 30 minute (or less) ‘what to do next’ sessions which we will be sharing soon. Beyond this, any business that needs help to create a strategy around their team, sales and growth moving forward is welcome to take us up on a comp session (we allow 6 hours for these each week, so just ask and we will book you in).
What about teams on Furlough ?
Jo is working with teams on furlough keeping them connected with the business and excited about returning to work. It’s a great program that takes the pressure off the Business Owners as the background support is external. We have several furloughed team members who have joined our webinars and it is great to see them pushing their education forward.
Advice as we move out of lockdown.
I have already said there is no ‘new normal’ it is just normal… and that will be new pretty much every day, certainly every week and definitely every month! Coming out of lockdown will be an interesting state of normal… we will need to be prepared: Prepared for the different approaches of different people; prepared for the new legislation and H&S requirements; prepared to market; prepared to sell; prepared to take risks; prepared to step forward and prepared to look for the opportunities that will inevitably be presented (this does not mean look to take advantage, rather look for where your business can move forward). Overall, create your plans, manage your risks, support your team, find the opportunities and absolutely, work with a coach! (It doesn’t have to be me… but… a good business coach will help EVERY business to move forward with purpose and is an investment that will give you an amazing ROI).