Opinion

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What will make a successful business in the looming recession?

7 Mins

Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner offers some insight on what successful businesses will look like as the recession comes…

Since the pandemic took hold, we have all been reacting and struggling to comprehend circumstances and scenarios that no-one envisaged nor had any historical precedent to compare. The rate of change we’ve seen has meant days have felt like weeks and weeks have felt like months.

Businesses and individuals have been making critical decisions in the morning which by the afternoon are already defunct and out of date as the external circumstances have changed.

It seems this pace has slowed, and we are now passing the eye of the storm. The urgency of the immediate crisis phase has dissipated somewhat, and we can see what the future may bring, which includes the possible second/third/fourth/ waves.

But there’s also another storm coming towards as well, the business outlook is forecasted to be dark thunderous clouds representing the full understanding and ramifications of both the pandemic itself and the response to it.

That said, businesses and their leaders can take advantage of this window to engage and invigorate their teams by giving purpose and focus for what comes next. Understanding what is to come without any comprehension of what it will look like can be a scary thought, as it means the traditional planning and strategizing methodologies can be perceived as redundant. After all, what is the point of planning, when, by common consensus across the spectrum, there is no clear pathway beyond the immediate?

First steps

The first step is to ensure that there is a shared purpose where the team all understand what the business is actually delivering to its customers. It is important to stress this is very different to how this discussion would have taken place a few months ago where the focus would have been more holistic.

Businesses need to ensure that the team understand they are going into the unknown and they have to own that goal, they have to share that purpose as decisions will need to be taken and calls will need to be made. To have that single overriding goal which is shared by everyone means that decisions do not need to be second guessed, they don’t need to be pushed up the chain of command, they can be carried out with confidence that it is right for the business as it helps deliver the goal.

Embrace the fear

The next step is to embrace the fear. Recession (and even worse depression) are scary words, it fills images of graphs that slope downwards, of jobs being shed, of difficult times and that, no doubt, is the stark reality that lies ahead. But, as is commonly said, the most incredible ideas and some of the great business success stories have come out of recessions. The statement that innovation is bred of adversity is very simplistic but there is no doubt that as a species, we are more risk averse when something is working. The concept of ‘Why Change A Winning Habit’ goes out the window when there are no winning habits.

Leaders who embrace the fear, who show vulnerability to their teams, who embrace a culture where everyone has a voice and all ideas are welcome and have the opportunity to be acted on are creating a team, a culture, a business that can match up and deliver in a world where what the future holds is unclear to say the least.

Shared ownership

The final element in this preparation is to ensure shared ownership. Whether the people within the business are back in a shared environment, working remotely or some mix of both, leaders need to ensure that every member of the team understands they have an equal part to deliver success for the business through these times. We need to stress every deed, every thought, every action will add to the chances of shared success. The leader sits as part the team driving forward, not in the lead nor at the back. We are all in it together.

Business leaders need to use this time to develop a common goal or purpose that is focussed and shared across every member of the organisation. Within this, we need to stress that the most important person, employee or stakeholder for any business, isn’t anyone who actually works within it, nor is it the board or owners of the business, but it is their customers that the business serves.
Every conversation that is being started as by leaders as we look to define that shared goal should start with the customer.

In the midst of any uncertain period, the level of understanding and focussed appreciation of desired outcomes for the key stakeholder in any circumstance will mean that the right decisions will be made at the right time by any member of the team involved and thus ensuring a happy customer.

As time moves forward and we exit the eye of the storm into the uncertain future ahead, the foundations being laid down by the leadership and the team will give companies the opportunity to turn an uncertain future into an exciting opportunity.

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