Ripples of relief are running around the world this month even though the pandemic rages on. Here, the much talked of travel bubble has begun and while it may provide some ease for the harder hit sectors, the shadow of recession is cast and many predict a long, hard slog ahead.
While the pandemic is a new experience for most of us, recession is a familiar nemesis with business owners preparing to hunker down and brave the next economic storm.
Yet in the same way we have had to be flexible and inventive in dealing with the pandemic, perhaps it is time we reviewed our response to recession – change our behaviours or, at the very least, look at things differently?
Traditional approaches to business development in a recession have been geared towards survival, retrenchment, cost-cutting and job losses but is this the right way to go? Doesn’t that perpetuate the boom-bust cycle?
At our board meetings, we’ve been talking about ways to approach business in hard times and it’s been fascinating listening to business owners as they work on smart thinking to beat the slump or take advantage of an opportunity.
What we found is that technology is a silent untapped resource and we still underutilise its potential. Some of us are even afraid to explore alternatives or feel we don’t have the skills and/or money to take advantage of it. One safe solution to step out of your comfort zone is to do it with the wisdom of others around you and discover how and what other businesses are doing in their industries, what existing technology they use and consider how it could be adapted for your own industry and business.
This brings me to a key hurdle which is you taking action – yes, we have to start with ourselves – making small changes in our everyday environment and the things we do. Add influential habits into your time management, small things that drive the rhythm of your day. For example, while you’re driving, listen to e-books or podcasts instead of the radio or music. If you want to stop buying a pie for breakfast each morning on the way to work, change the route you travel and miss the pie shop. If you want to walk more and drive less, park further away from work. These small habits add up and become significant as a whole.
Back in the business, start adding small improvements to your key operational functions. Something as simple as a five to ten minute team huddle every day to identify current issues can be really helpful – preferably In person, but phone or video call is ok too. Crucially, it has to happen each day – same time, same place, same routine. This regular check-in gives everyone a chance to highlight issues as they arise rather than accumulated troubles suddenly bursting into our comfort zone.
Ask people about the changes they’re seeing, what’s on their horizon, whether they’re stuck on anything and where they think positive steps can be taken to deal with emerging difficulties. Innovation starts from within and creating an environment conducive to innovation takes work. Ideally, you want to reach a point where everyone in the business is confident that they contribute to the business every day, morale is high and, when tough times occur, the whole team deals with it together.
Collaboration and discussion helps to reshape the way we see difficulties – we can look for opportunities and – as we saw quite often during the early stages of COVID19 – this can take the business in a new, profitable and sustainable direction.
So as the clouds gather on the economic horizon don’t default to past approaches – switch on new thinking and be a guiding light towards recovery.