The Startups 100 for 2020

The Startups 100 for 2020

You may be forgiven for thinking not much has been happening in the world of business startups for the past year or so. You’d be wrong. We’ve seen our busiest year ever here at Streamlion, and it seems there’s been no change to the old adage that alongside crisis comes opportunity.

Startups.co.uk have published their list of The Startups100 for 2020, using criteria such as finances, turnover, strength of business idea and the opinions of existing successful entrepreneurs, to rank businesses across the categories of tech, family, social, B2C, B2B, and regional.

The full list of the class of 2020 is here, and we’re excited to see everything from healthy baby food, to outsourced delivery services for small grocery stores and a platform for families to use to monitor elderly relatives in care.

There’s a heavy emphasis on automation – or making everyday life more simple – with a hefty number of data and analytics platforms included. Wellbeing and sustainability are also big players. Overall though, it’s great to see the appetite for entrepreneurialism hasn’t diminished.

Financial Optimism in the UK market has almost doubled since start of 2021

Financial Optimism in the UK market has almost doubled since start of 2021

LinkedIn is reporting that financial optimism in the UK market has almost doubled since the start of 2021. As someone who is very close to new business, I agree wholeheartedly that the appetite for entrepreneurialism has not been dented by our experiences of the past year. They say there’s no better time to start a business than when the chips are down and people are certainly willing to throw their hat in the ring at the moment.

In terms of helping startups to get the funding they need to bring their dream business into reality, I’ve helped an incredible 100 businesses in just four months of the current calendar year, against a total of 185 in the whole of the last calendar year. Things are incredibly busy, with food delivery and take-away businesses not surprisingly being a super-hot market right now (no pun intended!).

One of LinkedIn’s highlights states that employees of small and medium businesses have seen confidence rise faster than the UK average – possibly down to the fact that these businesses tend to be more agile and adaptable, meaning their damage will have been limited and they may even be going forward to experience a reinvented future.

You can read the rest of the report here.

75% of mid-sized business owners expect revenue to return to pre-pandemic levels within a year

75% of mid-sized business owners expect revenue to return to pre-pandemic levels within a year

Accountancy firm BDO recently reported that 75% of mid-sized business owners expect revenue to return to pre-pandemic levels within a year. The survey of 500 of the UK’s mid-sized businesses also revealed that 86% of firms are planning to recruit over the next six months.

This research is comforting given the absolute uncertainty of the past year-and-a-bit, and means interest in investing in British businesses is also on the up. 26% of those surveyed revealed they are planning M&A activity and, while prices will almost certainly rise, the news is generally good for those wanting to grow their businesses.

If launching a new business is something you’ve considered recently, check out these top tips to ensure fast growth even during a global slow down.

Caterpillar Wars – can your business idea stand alone?

Caterpillar Wars – can your business idea stand alone?

Here’s a jolly, tongue-in-cheek piece about the current caterpillar wars between two of our leading supermarkets. However, a serious message lies beneath this tale: it’s critical to ensure your business idea can stand alone if you want to launch a successful start-up.

There are several elements that come into play here (and, of course, there’s no harm in going head-to-head with a competitor if you have a clear differentiator):

  1. You need to be able to prove that your idea can stand on its own two (or more, where Colin is concerned) feet. Obviously not all ideas are completely unique but you need to demonstrate clear differentiators between your idea and anything very similar to ensure you’re not accused of copying;
  2. Uniqueness is important if you want your business to be able to sustain itself long-term. Having a genuinely different product or service will ensure customer loyalty and this will give rise to referrals. It’s a cutthroat world out there and simply being cheaper than your competitors may not be enough to create a robust business in its own right (this is also critical if you want investment for your business);
  3. Always carry out market research. There aren’t many entrepreneurs who can boast of launching a first idea to the market successfully. For many, the initial seed of an idea will evolve countless times before it is finally sent to market. Talking to others will also help you to understand any confusion with other products and clarify your messaging and market position.
With Streamlion, you can have your cake and eat it.

With Streamlion, you can have your cake and eat it.

As part of our 6th birthday celebrations, Streamlion Consulting has, of course, not missed the chance to enjoy a cake! Such a traditional – and unmissable – part of celebrating a birthday and, while eating it, we contemplated how other businesses have celebrated birthdays.

Of course, budget comes into play when deciding how to let the world know you have a successful brand and business (this is, of course, another marketing opportunity at heart) and some of the bigger players have really pushed the boat out in the past.

Apple celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Mac by compiling a video shot by its own employees using iphones. This global project showed people’s lives being enhanced by Apple products and was a supremely clever, multi-level message for its audience. Apple have long said their mission was to bring technology to the hands of the people and this was never more evident than in their birthday video. Of course, it also served to showcase many of their products as well as being a really inclusive experience for their people.

Heinz were also clever at bringing people along with them but they focused on their customer audience when, for their 130th birthday, they enabled customers to order bottles of ketchup with personalised messages on the labels. A truly inspired way to boost sales and create a keepsake to ensure your brand is always front of mind.

You might say Coca-Cola’s 125th celebrations broke new frontiers as they became the first soft drink to be consumed in space. They engineered this other worldly stunt by letting astronauts on board Challenger test out their ‘space can’ and also installed a vending machine called the ‘Space Dispenser’ on board the space shuttle Discovery.

For us mere mortals with a more average budget however, birthday celebrations are no less important. With 20% of startup businesses reportedly going bust within their first year and a massive 60% not seeing their third birthday, reaching any anniversary is an achievement. And, for Streamlion, it’s extra special because seeing businesses ‘making it’ is the cherry on the cake for us.

So, our cake might seem modest in comparison to some of the big brand birthday antics but, for us, it represents why we are here and what we do:

  • We help startups to pull together a recipe for success by creating a business plan that will secure valuable funding and investment;
  • We help entrepreneurs find the right mix to ensure their business rises to the top and satisfies all their goals;
  • We advise business owners on how to choose the right ingredients for success as their business grows and scales;
  • Our extensive network of investors and knowledge of investment markets is the icing on the cake for our clients;
  • We help businesses take the temperature of the market when launching, scaling or exiting their businesses;
  • Excellent customer service and a good sense of humour is baked right in.

Happy birthday Streamlion, and all the other businesses still going strong after a challenging year. 

Celebrations and considerations – it’s another business birthday!

Celebrations and considerations – it’s another business birthday!

Streamlion is 6 and, to celebrate, here are 6 things we’ve learned about being in business so far.

1. No business is an island.

Never truer than over the past year, collaborating creates a stronger team. Finding reputable associates is worth its weight in gold to your business because you never have to say ‘no’ to a client again. You can offer a wider range of services by partnering with complementary businesses and these relationships tend to generate business referrals in their own right. 

2. Networking is key. 

Networking can be a little like marmite – you either love, or hate, the thought. But, if you find a group with a style that works for you, and put the right amount of effort in, there’s no doubt it can reap rewards in many ways. From identifying your ideal clients and generating leads to building your trusted partners, by networking we get to find out who we know, like and trust – and whether the feeling is mutual. For Streamlion, networking has been a key strategy, paying dividends from a business growth point of view and also in building our valued investor relationships.

3. Mistakes are learning points. 

We all get it wrong from time to time but perhaps we should look at this as a good thing. We don’t learn without making mistakes. Sayings such as ‘fail forward’ indicate that sometimes getting things wrong can be to our benefit – this is especially true in the case of serial entrepreneurs who are renowned for keeping going until an idea sticks. Learn to love the lessons that come from getting it wrong.

4. Stick to what you know. 

This is not to say you shouldn’t innovate (far from it) but when it comes to business, you should avoid being bogged down by non-core activity. Anything back-office or additional to securing sales or delivery should be handed over to carefully selected associates. 

You are the power and the brains behind your business so don’t dilute this. To quote a brilliant Virtual Assistant in one of my networking groups, ‘outsource everything but your brilliance’.

5. Evolve. Always.

The uber successful Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying “what’s dangerous, is not to evolve” and we’ve certainly seen evidence of this over the past year. As business owners, we should continually revisit and review what we do and how we do it. For Streamlion, the latest evolution is putting a “best in class” Referral Partner scheme into place, where I generously reward my strategic partners for introducing and qualifying opportunities for my pipeline. A win-win situation for us all. 

6. Don’t take your ideal customer avatar for granted.

Perhaps my most recent observation, having watched businesses turn themselves inside out to survive the pandemic, is not to take your ideal client persona for granted. It’s critical to spend time understanding your ideal client but this isn’t a one-off task. This also needs to evolve, especially as you change and bring new products or services online.

I hope there’s some food for thought in there for you – and I’d love to hear your own business lessons if you’d be willing to share. 

4 ways the pandemic could permanently change global ways of working

4 ways the pandemic could permanently change global ways of working

Responses to, and outcomes of, the pandemic have varied greatly around the world and not always conformed to stereotypes. This fact, and the issues that have been raised by the immense disruption to our definition of normality are certain to change working cultures across the globe. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what the world might look like when the pandemic has finally died down.

1. Decoupling

Globalisation has been the great economic movement for some years now but coronavirus might just have highlighted some of the downfalls of the world becoming a smaller place. Stand aside the speed with which the virus was able to spread, huge trust issues have also been thrust into the open as a result of previous big players like the US and China seemingly unable to handle the pandemic in the right way. From Trump denying its very existence to a strong suspicion that China has dramatically under-reported its numbers, both countries may no longer be featuring in the future plans of big business.

So, while we’ve uncovered a greater need to work as one when it comes to managing crises, the pandemic may also show us that we need to rely less on countries who aren’t trusted and transparent.

2. Quality not quantity

The issue of quality has many strands when considered in relation to the pandemic. Firstly, remote working has uncovered an unexpected increase in efficiency, even with the incredible strain on families who are home schooling. It’s not without risks, as mental health statistics are starting to show but empowering people to get the job done, whenever and however may well be a change that’s here to stay.

Quality is also under the spotlight when it comes to manufacturing and this brings us back to globalisation. Currently China is the main beneficiary of a global economy, chiefly down to the sheer volume of manufacturing it can process. However, it is not making goods to the quality required. Consider PPE: poor quality (aka cheap) face masks are a financial risk not worth taking. The future is likely to demand better brand promises focused around safety and a commitment to trust.

3. Eggs in baskets

One of the main reasons for disruption during the pandemic has been seen through supply chains. Simply getting goods from one place to another has been the critical path many times and this is likely to mean global supply chains will be questioned once the pandemic has died down.

Certainly seeding our suppliers across different countries and continents, while harder to track and control, will mitigate risk. The winners here are likely to be less well-known providers of cheap labour such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The losers? China again.

4. The age of values and conscience

Perhaps an unexpected outcome of the pandemic has been the accelerated rise of Generation Co – the conscientious, values-based, environmentally-aware demographic within society. They believe that businesses should be partnering with government and society at large to improve the world. Sustainability, empathy and planet-friendly goods and services are under the microscope and there’s a strong belief that large corporations will need to tackle these issues to be successful in the future. 

We could be heading towards a world where shareholders are no longer on the top of the pile. In fact GenCo believes that the planet itself should be our main stakeholder.

There’s another angle on conscience to consider and that’s empathy. A global study of workers conducted by Quartz and Qualtrics showed that 37% feel their company culture has improved as a result of the pandemic and a big part of that is greater recognition of employee’s mental health. Employers will need to continue to show empathy and value emotional, as well as physical, health in their people if they want to retain a strong, enthusiastic and capable workforce.

Sources:

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/accenture-coronavirus

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-coronavirus-trump-geopolitics

https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/blog/responsible-business-blog/2020/covid-19-drives-lasting-changes-in-global-consumer-behavior-and-businesses-operations.html

3 planning tips to help with uncertainty

3 planning tips to help with uncertainty

It was Stephen Covey who said “if there’s one thing that’s certain about business, it’s uncertainty”.

Boy, have we learned that lesson over the past year. And now, as we approach the end of the financial year and possibly year end for many businesses, our thoughts turn to planning and forecasting.

It’s quite a natural response, even among seasoned business owners and leaders, to shy away from uncertainty. Often, plans choose a likely scenario and are then reviewed and tweaked as the months pass. However, in the pandemic-ridden world we now inhabit, it’s hard to ignore the uncertainty. It’s front and centre; far-reaching and it’s affecting absolutely everyone.

So, here are some ideas for how to get the most out of planning when uncertainty reigns.

1.   What does success look like?

Success can mean all things to all people and there are many ways to measure it. When it comes to business planning during uncertainty, we can learn to think in ranges. Using “if this, then that” logic can help us to understand the varying degrees of success that are on the table.

Pivoting is a hideously overused word at the moment, but it’s been a necessary action for business wishing to survive the disruption of the pandemic. I’m hoping there aren’t any businesses out there who are still waiting for ‘normality’ to return: this isn’t an option we should even consider now. Instead, we need to equip our businesses and our people to be flexible, agile and to think outside the box when it comes to serving our customers’ needs.

A great way to focus on a range of success scenarios is to work with a small group of people – from within and outside of the business – who can bring different ideas and priorities to the table. You need to have as open and wide a discussion as possible to ensure true innovation in your planning.

2.   Channel your creativity

Mind mapping is possibly the polar opposite to traditional business planning but, for that very reason, it comes into its own when we are trying to create some different for unusual times.

It involves making your business the central ‘theme’ and thinking of new and related ideas which radiate out from it. There are lots of apps to help with mind mapping but it’s probably still best tackled with a huge sheet of paper and your kids’ colouring pens. Part of this being a success requires you to tap into a more creative part of your brain so use images, colours and scribbles to get your thoughts down on paper.

The ‘rules’ of successful mind-mapping are simple: start at the centre, add your thoughts from the centre outwards, and use images, colour and text.

3.   A plan is a great place to start

Something that’s important to consider is what we do with our plan once it’s created. Most important in today’s climate is to remember that it is not set in stone. We need to be comfortable with revisiting and tweaking our plans; evolving them as situations and knowledge change and grow.

Uncertainty is not a reason to avoid planning; rather it is a time to plan more frequently. There’s no right way but it is true to say that, when we are operating in uncertain circumstances, we have better control when we plan for shorter timescales. So, setting monthly, rather than annual goals could work well.

The only this that is certain as we start 2021, is that covid-19 has set in motion a cultural, technological, and economic revolution. Even now, while we are still operating in a degree of chaos, we cannot know what will arise that might affect the way we run our businesses in 2022 and beyond.

My advice, therefore, is to plan as best you can; dismiss nothing; consider everything; and review regularly.

8 reasons why love and work may not make the best bedfellows.

8 reasons why love and work may not make the best bedfellows.

It was the great Confucius who once said “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Loving what you do for a living seems to be everyone’s dream but then again, love is apparently blind. Business needs passion certainly, but we need to be careful to keep our feet on the ground.

Here, in celebration of the ‘month of love’, are some classic loving statements, interpreted from a business perspective.

1.    “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

There’s a lot of truth in this statement, especially when it comes to serial entrepreneurs. In fact, you could argue that we only truly learn from our mistakes

2.    “To me, you are perfect” Love Actually

As a business owner, you should always be striving for growth and achieving this will mean getting out of your comfort zone. Never assume your work is done – there is always room for improvement.

3.    “Everything I do, I do it for you” Bryan Adams

If you are looking in the mirror and saying this, you might need to do some leadership coaching. If you’re talking to your staff, you’re bang on. Valuing your people builds trust and respect and these are the currencies of successful business.

4.    “A simple ‘I love you’ means more than money” Frank Sinatra

In business, not much means more than money when it comes down to it. However, a little passion, enthusiasm and drive go a long way.

5.    “If you find someone you love in your life, then hang on to that person” Princess Diana

No matter how passionate you are about what you do for a living, you always need to plan for the day it’s no longer there. Exit strategies are one of the most commonly overlooked elements of a business plan and yet, if you’ve invested and want to make a return, they are the only way to realise that.

6.    “Love yourself first and everything falls into line” Lucille Ball

There’s no doubt that, no matter how rose-coloured your glasses are, running a business is hard work and needs effort. Don’t let any of those hopeless romantics tell you any different!

7.    “Love recognises no barriers” Maya Angelou

Maya is a favourite of mine and, while she speaks a lot of sense, a lack of barriers can be a very bad thing in business. It’s critical to stay focused when it comes to planning and growing otherwise you will be at risk of spreading yourself too thinly and failing to deliver.

8.    “I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything” F. Scott Fitzgerald

We all know that work and other aspects of life need to balance out somehow. Being too wrapped up in work can result in early burnout. And our brains cement learning when we have downtime so, if you’re keen to grow as a person too, it’s always good to have some time out of the office.

As with everything, a balance is always best. Being passionate about what you do means enthusiasm and positivity for your staff and clients. Love tends to be a little more open to interpretation. Maybe we should think of our business like a marriage – it will have ups and downs and sometimes the passion may wane, but to make it work, we should commit to it and always strive to make it feel valued.

4 things to consider when you evolve your business

4 things to consider when you evolve your business

Despite every day for almost a year feeling like it, did you know Tuesday 2nd February actually is Groundhog Day? Originally introduced to the US by German settlers, it’s the day when people wait for a sign as to whether winter will last another six weeks, or warmer weather will begin to return.

We might be forgiven for asking whether lockdown will last for another six weeks but, as business owners, do we really have the time to wait for anything?

One thing we can take for granted is that things will change. The question is how. It’s a dangerous game for a business to stay dormant, waiting for normality to return. Echoes of the infamous Eckhart Tolle concept of ‘evolve or die’ are ringing around the business world. Thankfully, many businesses have been able to move with the times and alter their delivery methods or even the products they manufacture.

Four things to consider as you evolve for success

Let’s not forget, adapting to change is nothing new for business as the conditions in which we operate rarely stay the same for long.

1.    Always include change in your strategy

My first tip was inspired by Intel’s Andrew Grove statement that “only the paranoid survive”. That might sound a little extreme but the sentiment is sound: a business should always be checking for new developments and competition and then planning how to beat it and continue to grow. Make sure this is a conscious activity whenever you are strategizing for the future.

2.    Take your people with you

Winning hearts and minds among your team is so important. In some ways it’s up there with winning business and that’s because these are the people who make things happen. If you create a barrier between your plans for the future and your people, you’re setting off on an uphill struggle. Set a strong culture of adventurous thinking and communicate it clearly to your people. Set them up for success and they will reward you with buy in and enthusiasm.

3.    Bring in some new thinking

If you are a fast-growing business, it can sometimes be hard to accept you’re changing. What was once your baby, a precious and unique startup idea, suddenly starts to look a lot like a million other medium-sized businesses out there as more people, bureaucracy and process threaten to choke your agility. It always pays off to take a step back in these situations. As owner-operators, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees so ask a trusted, external source to join your brainstorming and help you to think more laterally.

4.    Just say no

Perhaps this is controversial, but businesses need to get comfortable with saying no. Let’s assume you’ve struck out in a new direction as a response to the changes in the market and a client comes along wanting some of the old stuff they’ve always bought from you. You should only accept their business if the old stuff remains part of your strategy. Don’t be afraid to say no otherwise you risk becoming a hybrid of old and new.

Investment Challenge: a big man with a very big business. Would you invest?

Investment Challenge: a big man with a very big business. Would you invest?

One of the first things I do with clients who are seeking funding is chat through their business idea and ensure it is viable, sustainable and scalable. If a business has too many barriers to entry, is not going to appeal to a wide enough audience or doesn’t have any chance of growth, the chances are that investors will be wary.

With that in mind, and to help you conduct something similar on any business ideas you might be considering, I thought I’d share an example using a popular business I think most of you will be aware of.

The brand

Christmas Services Ltd t/a Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nick

Clear and simple with an attractive colour palette. Although the name varies slightly when used globally, it does seem to translate to roughly the same value set:

  • Artisan
  • Family friendly
  • Celebrates good
  • Jolly…

The authenticity of the brand needs some consideration. Because of the strong links with the biggest dishonest collusion any adult will ever enter into, this may be called into question.

Action: Gather and submit evidence which proves this is, in fact, a white lie (which we all know are ok).

Key deliverables

  • Presents for good children
  • Lumps of coal for naughty children
  • Goodwill to all men

Consider the definition of ‘good’ and ‘naughty’ including examples of what bad behaviour results in the delivery of coal. Customer satisfaction reports seem to imply that most clients recover their behaviour sufficiently to receive presents.

Action: Is the production and provision of coal still a valid part of the enterprise? If so, should the presentation be tailored for a modern generation?

Action: Update service descriptions to reflect modern society – “goodwill to all” is more diverse and inclusive.

The market

The main consideration is the extremely seasonal nature of the business.

Operating ‘but once a year’ may be considered high risk by investors. However, due to manufacturing and workforce constraints it is not clear whether the operation could be scaled while maintaining standards.

Potentially, this is only an extreme example of the bias that many retail businesses have towards seasonal trading.

Action: consider whether service could be scaled to any other occasion annually. (NB: set up negotiations with key competitors; Easter Bunny, all witches, skeletons and ghouls, tooth fairy)

The workforce

The workforce is seen as extremely loyal and effective at producing the required type of artisan goods that link with the brand. However, diversity is virtually non-existent, with almost the entire workforce being of a single nationality/culture. However, the mass employment of the vertically challenged has been seen to be of advantage to the local population as a whole and certainly assists in bringing in goodwill.

Action: consider recruitment campaign to attract a more diverse workforce. (NB: assess impact of this on elf and safety given size constraints of machinery and factory)

The requirement for 9 months of the year being used to prepare for 3 months’ worth of manufacturing and delivery is unusual. Consideration must be given to whether the workforce remains efficient.

Action: assess workforce capabilities with time and motion study. (NB: Particular reference to CEO who appears to be on holiday for those 9 months).

Finally, consider the overall wellbeing of the workforce, who reportedly work long hours at times. Night shifts should be properly staffed to ensure regular breaks are being taken and adequate facilities are provided for inclement working conditions. Anyone showing signs of illness (red nose, overly hot, red cheeks, or overweight bellies that shake like jelly) should be given a company medical.

The Supply Chain

The original brand USP was for artisanal products. However, in recent years, there has been increasing outsourcing leading to a dilution of the brand values and a prevalence of non-environmentally friendly materials being used.

Attention should be paid to the importance of the brand values and goodwill (of all men) towards the original business plan. Should the outsourced manufacturing be brought back in house?

How has the sugar tax affected profit margins? Have suppliers passed this cost on or absorbed it?

Action: conduct supply chain audit to identify contractors whose brand values do not match that of the organisation; rerun competitions for all contracts.

Distribution & logistics

The use of a non-fossil fuel delivery system is well established and appears to be working well. It might be of use to carry out a survey or surveys to establish whether the production of greenhouse gases (e.g. methane and carbon dioxide) might be seen as a negative and to establish the viability of sustainable alternatives, especially for the lead tractor animal who has his own branding with a red nose.

Are the towing animals at risk of extinction? What facilities are there to ensure regular fleet replacements? Is the red nose a common characteristic or deemed to be some sort of rare throwback gene?

Exit strategy

The recent global pandemic has caused some issues for the survival of the business. The brand story has been tested and messaging needs to be clear to all clients: if 2020 doesn’t stop us, then nothing will (particularly because ‘magic’ seems to be the main rebuttal to any question concerning disruption of supply).

However, modern technology is yet to catch up with the iconic delivery system utilised by the business and this is a positive aspect to be included in any sale calculations.

Currently, options for exit are:

  • Franchise and assume managerial/brand guardian role (beware quality control of franchisees, many less-than-convincing substitutes have been seen – beards on elastic, cheap wellies, rubbish plastic presents)
  • Sale as going concern (consider location of new owner and possible impact on workforce, brand story and general authenticity – Superman will get cold in just tights, Iceman thought to lack empathy)
  • Merger/acquisition (difficult to identify sufficiently similar organisation, but possible contenders are:
    • Multinational drinks company with really nice lorry but likely not to embody brand values or extremely competitive pricing strategy
    • Other cloaked heroes all of whom do seem to have their own battles ongoing, therefore present risk of lack of focus or departure from core business
    • Tooth fairy, although concerns on size match mean this business might not be viable option – currently SME with little ability to grow.

So, what do you think? Would you invest?

Wishing all my clients, colleagues, collaborators and followers a very happy Christmas.

Covid and Crisis: What Did We Learn?

Covid and Crisis: What Did We Learn?

It’s the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment but, as the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’ and eventually we will need to start thinking about life after covid. This three-part blog series looks at moving on from crises and why businesses need to acknowledge what’s happened and learn the right lessons.

McKinsey & Co have been publishing a fascinating ongoing blog on the impact of Covid-19; one instalment of which explores the somewhat unexpected performance of the stock market in recent months. Despite crisis, uncertainty and deep recession, the markets are reaching new highs. Why? Firstly, because investors tend to take a long-term view of things and even the resilience of this pandemic is only a blot on the landscape of the average investment period; secondly because the markets are dominated by five major tech companies who, understandably, aren’t really affected by the change on working practices; and thirdly because for every plus there is a minus and impact across the various business sectors has varied wildly. For every disaster, say the events industry, there has been a success, say those manufacturing PPE. The market is a reflection of the whole and so its aggregate value remains resilient.

The report, however, made me think that there is an important lesson in positivity for us to take away. Despite pain and sadness, 2020 will leave another legacy. An understanding that there’s more than one way to do business. A feeling that we’re perhaps more resilient than we gave ourselves credit for.

So, what did we learn and what can we take away for the future?

  1. We can pivot. It’s become one of a few hideously overused words but that can’t detract from the fact that we experienced an incredible agility in our business world. Manufacturers suddenly started making ventilators or manufacturing PPE. We found out we could meet online instead of in person. Small, medium and large businesses found a way to adapt.
  2. You’ve (probably) got deeper business relationships. Being ‘in it together’ has a unifying impact and many businesses are likely to experience increased loyalty from clients and employees alike. I said in my last blog on this topic that the way we show up in a crisis underlines our future reputation and this is never more true than when it comes to our people.
  3. You’ve got a story to tell. Your brand identity will be enriched and authenticity enhanced by letting people know what you did to survive. Many businesses didn’t just survive, they contributed to their community, helped in the national effort to save lives and supported their peers without question. Marketing aside, this is a story of community and we need a little more of that in our business lives.
  4. Survive this, survive anything. Or so the saying goes: complacency has no place here but you have now stress tested your crisis plans, pushed your business to the extent of its comfort zone and survived. That’s something to celebrate and also to learn from. Disaster and business interruption planning is important but probably overlooked unless you’re a giant corporate. That’s likely to change and our agility can only improve as a result.
  5. The importance of connection. Whether it’s working in a remote team or keeping your customers up to date with what you can and can’t do, we’ve all learned the lesson that communication matters. Your messaging could easily have been the difference between adapt or die for your business and there’s no reason to change your approach now. Keeping people informed, continuing to be front-of-mind with your audience is great for business at any time and hopefully this will be a new habit we intend to continue with.