Business adversity

Times of business adversity are par for the course in running any company, but these days are unprecedented. Decisive action is needed to drive through the rough times.

So how do we respond to and cope well with business adversity? It’s the million-dollar question and one all companies in the UK and across the globe are grappling with.

The past few weeks have been filled with tough decisions. The foreseeable shows no sign of bucking the trend. Firms of all shapes and sizes are looking at radical options to help protect their people, mitigate financial ruin and tackle business adversity.

The UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme has received take up three-times what it imagined – currently running at an estimated £45 billion for the initial three-month period. The scheme is a huge, unprecedented boon to business. It’s also a massive indicator of the earth-shaking fallout we all face from coronavirus and the resulting business adversity. Previously robust, profit-making enterprises have come under unimagined cost pressures and countless businesses have had to conduct some horrible conversations they didn’t think possible less than 10 weeks ago.

Cutting up rough

Across the pond a seemingly ill-informed, maybe in-denial, President Trump has been cutting up rough – still advocating America’s speedy return to work and weighing up the inevitable cost to business, the US economy and, presumably, his re-election hopes.

Known to be a very keen golfer, perhaps Trump could take a few tips from the sport he loves so much. If you’ve ever played the game, you’ll doubtless know there is much adversity to be encountered (especially if you play like me). But also, I genuinely think there is a lot we can all take from this beautiful game that can help us during these times of business adversity.

The PAR approach

Dr Joseph Parent – author of a book called Zen Golf: mastering the mental game (2005) – sets out a simple and practical method to improving performance when facing adversity anywhere – it’s called The PAR approach:

  1. Preparation
  2. Action
  3. Response to Results

Over the past few weeks, it’s become a simple formula for the way we are managing the present situation, risks and business adversity faced by 44.

Step 1: Preparation – setting up to play the game

Being prepared is key to the running of any project, programme or activity. Business owners need to be prepared for multiple eventualities. They need to keep re-evaluating their plans on a regular basis as they progress through these adverse times. It’s a simple routine you must adopt every day with every decision (and shot) you make.

At 44 we prepared ourselves for business adversity by ensuring everyone could work from home – ahead of the UK-wide lockdown. We prepared our team for working remotely, ramped up our use of MS Teams for collaboration; and tweaked our daily meeting structures to ensure planning could happen reliably from a distance.

We cut back on peripheral spend to reduce our standing costs. As it was year-end, we made provision in the accounts to help with future FY21 investment when needed and appropriate. Then we closed one physical office temporarily and made the other available if needed in an emergency, and for wider team and client use when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Step 2: Action – taking swift, decisive action 

Once preparations are done, it’s time to clear your head and take action. Often in business it’s better to make up your mind and make a logical decision than not to make one at all. Procrastination and over-thinking things often cause greater damage in times of business adversity.

We took a hard but necessary decision to furlough several colleagues. The driver was solely financial. We wanted to protect all team roles ready for better times ahead. Tough decisions are not necessarily unfair ones. It’s important to get on the front foot when faced with business adversity or emergency.

More transparent communication, rather than not enough, has been another essential, ongoing action. MS Teams has been pivotal to enabling us to talk to one another daily with minimal disruption and technical interference. The team has even set up a virtual social club via Zoom for a post-work beer o’clock to lift spirits and get individuals together.

This ongoing, day-to-day communication has been supported by a simple weekly business update – letting everyone know how the company is doing and clarifying decisions/changes to working practices as we’ve gone along. All questions arising from any of the above are answered transparently and in real time with follow-up Q&A opportunities to discuss how we’re tackling business adversity.

Step 3: Response to results – looking at the outcomes and adapting for next time

Looking at the results, analysing the impact of actions and learning from them completes the cycle but it’s also very important to set aside any mistakes made during times of business adversity. There will be the odd wrong move too. Creating a caring and accessible climate is a distinct advantage in keeping the team on course. Yes, there should be accountability but beating each other up over a poor result does not help you move forward through business adversity.

We continue to review and measure the capacity of our agency versus the workflow coming in. To help us do that we’ve created some new tools. The cancellation of booked holiday during lockdown and the build of leave later in the calendar year (when we might experience a future surge in business) was one new risk we’ve now identified and have adapted our response accordingly so that we’re looking beyond these times of business adversity.

Looking forward

What happens next? A further sustained period of lockdown is likely. June will be a pivotal time for firms here in the UK – it’s thought the number of companies likely to fold during this time of business adversity will peak around then.

The Government will come under increasing pressure to relax restrictions and get the economy moving again – but this may undo all the work achieved so far in fighting coronavirus. There’s no doubt this will need to be a careful balancing act.

Being prepared, ready to take decisive, unencumbered action, then review and respond to the results created away from business adversity might just be the name of the game. Applying a par approach in these challenging times is essential.

If you’d like support or advice on tackling business adversity through great internal communication positively, why not get in touch?