Building resilience as a small business is both essential and exciting.
And never more so than in ‘turbulent times’, as this piece in The Guardian puts it.
The piece offers ‘Top tips from our Business Made Simple panelists on steering a business through a period of uncertainty’.
So, how to think about ‘resilience’ in terms of business. Really, it’s ‘no different’ from thinking about personal resilience, suggests Judith Armstrong, Chief Executive of Millennium Point, and panel member.
‘Ultimately it’s about your support network – as an individual, building resilience comes from your friends and family, in a business it comes from your relationships with your customers, your staff, your shareholders.’
Build strong, solid, reliable partnerships. A good foundation of them.
And one key to that has to be open, honest communications. Trust cannot grow without them.
Tony Hague, Managing Director of PP Control and Automation is emphatic. ‘It’s about open communication, whether that news is good, bad or indifferent’, he says.
Judith Armstrong adds, and invite your team to be part of the solution. Good communication isn’t ‘telling people’, she suggests; ‘people don’t like being told what to do. As leaders we can forget these basic principles.’
If your industry has image problems, tackle that head-on, yourselves, suggests Tony Hague, whose business is manufacturing.
Young people don’t consider this as an attractive career path, he suggests. ‘They think dark, Dickensian, repetition, low paid’, he says.
‘If you go to Germany and talk about manufacturing it’s a completely different concept.’
But own this challenge, seems to be his argument. He works with primary and secondary schools to counter that misconception.
‘I go to a lots of events where people moan about the lack of skills, and I say, what are you doing [about it]?’ quotes The Guardian. ‘And they say it’s a government problem. And I say no it’s not.’
Again, this echoes lessons from building personal resilience: stop blaming, and complaining; take responsibility. Where you can.
Jodie Cook, another panel member, and owner of JC Social Media, has another suggestion for tackling a skills shortage. She’s introduced an initiative in her company called ‘one more desk’.
This means ‘there’s always a desk free for anyone wanting to do work experience’, says the piece.
‘We end up hiring a lot of them’.
Another big gripe among small-business owners is the familiar one: lack of time to develop the business, so caught up everyone is in the day-to-day crises.
Jodie Cook recommends delegation, automation, and re-checking against priorities: drop anything that ‘doesn’t add value to the business’.
Judith Armstrong agrees re prioritising.
‘It’s about talking to people’, she said, ‘and saying ‘we’re all swamped, what do we need to focus on, what are our priorities? Let’s get back to that shared purpose, and figure out how are we going to do this’’.
And again, the more engaged everyone involved is, the better, thinks Tony Hague. We’re all in this together, and his employees were asked ‘to decide on the core values of the business’, says The Guardian.
They also all regularly visit clients. ‘We make sure all the people who work in the factory… go and visit the customer regularly,’ he says, ‘they understand what they’re making, where it goes […] so it’s not a faceless customer.’
Be focused, seems to be one clear message. Even, turn down projects that aren’t right for your business. Stick with what you’re good at.
Jodie Cook says ‘There’s more of a danger in spreading yourself too thinly than specialising in a narrower set of things’ – which may, of course, also help with the problem of too much going on for you, as owner, to find time to think.
• Keep focused on your priorities
• Communicate clearly with your staff, suppliers and customers: build good, reliable relationships
• Take responsibility, where possible, for challenges facing your business, and for engineering a more conducive environment
• Get your priorities clear, and stick to them
• And free up time to keep one eye on the horizon
These are some of the ways, as a business owner – as a human being – to build and maintain resilience.