Almost a year into lockdown, I found myself wondering how different businesses have coped. So, I asked a few people in my network a very simple question.
“What’s the one lesson the lockdown has taught you about your business?”
The answers I received, were not as simple as my question.
Unsurprisingly, some businesses have fared better than others, but there is one constant theme running through the responses I received. People don’t give up. They work to find the best way to navigate the issues that face them, and come back stronger.
Take a minute to listen to and read people’s responses. I think you’ll find them insightful and hopefully inspiring.
My main take from the pandemic is to have a wide range of clients in different categories or industries. That way, if one sector takes a hit, the chances are that you can continue to keep working and bring in some revenue. It might not be easy, it might not be ideal, but it will keep the business ticking over. Don’t ignore the clients that are quiet, stay in touch and help where you can, the bank of goodwill has room for plenty of credit.
Co-founder and Executive Director Everyday Juice Limited
It’s taught me that I, and my business, can persevere. I’d be lying if I said that it hadn’t been a tough year, with a few highs, and many, many lows.
First, we’ve lost clients. Some, because those businesses ceased to exist, and others because of the financial uncertainty in their industries. The pandemic also obliterated all of the conversations with prospective clients, who opted to focus on more immediate priorities, putting us back months. This put significant strain on the company, and as a result, I put myself on furlough to get us through.
I’ve had my fair share of personal struggles over the past twelve months, too. Subsequent lockdowns and tier systems has taken a considerable turn on my mental and social wellbeing, and would say that I’ve been borderline depressive at points.
However, both the company and myself are turning a corner, and we’re still here. Cash flow is stretched, and we’re making decisions that we wouldn’t want to make, but I’m delighted that conversations with a number of organisations are finally starting to take shape once more. I’m excited that, if we can get through the next three or four months, the business has held off from its near doom and can flourish once more.
Gary Tyne CRL
Director Pro-Reliability Solutions
Location does not matter! For Pro-Reliability Solutions, there is hardly anything we cannot do when working remotely, though of course meeting customers face to face is one of the enjoyments we get from being in business. Our customers have trusted us to get their activities completed and it does not matter if we are sat in a city centre office or in the back garden at home, we have managed to get the job done.
Managing Director Key West Pest Control (Northern)
Like everyone, in the beginning I was scared, concerned and confused. Boris Johnson was saying to stay at home, my employees were saying that they should be at home, and we didn’t know whether pest control would be granted key worker status. I furloughed everyone, but was still receiving urgent callouts, so I started to lobby my MP and parliament asking for direct or clear instruction as to what I could do.
After a month of petitioning my local MP and other members of the Government, the answer came that, as pest controllers, we had key worker status.
This changed things with immediate effect, and we were able to service our clients again.
As trading became difficult for lots of business, and their focus turned to costs, we started to notice companies wanting quotes from other pest control and hygiene providers, to potentially get a better deal. Thankfully, we won a lot more business, being reliable and competitive, and won more work providing anti-static misting to fight coronavirus across commercial settings.
We had to react, adapt and change, but I’m glad to say our year has been good. We are winning new customers and seeing a steady growth, thanks to our strong brand, loyal clients and focused, brilliant colleagues.
Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers
The pandemic has shown me yet again how valuable connections are, even in the digital realm. How we support and uplift each other is key to our business relationships. This period offered us the opportunity to offer creative solutions, be generous with useful content and nurture relationships. Over the last twelve months, all of my work arose as a result of recommendation, or direct approach by a client. It’s a fortunate place to be in, but it didn’t come about by accident. Visibility, consistency, and social proof on social media helped for sure, but mostly it was about showing up with genuine, positive intent. I have found that clients and business partners alike are more open about what’s going on in their home and work lives, and we must honour this trust. When we do, business flows better.
I work with changemakers and leaders of values-led organisations in three areas: inclusive communication, social impact and inclusion. Interestingly, the bulk of my work has shifted to working with charities and social enterprises. Prior to lockdown, more of my work was within the private sector. I have observed businesses with a primary focus on profits scaling back investment in their most valuable asset, their people. Conversely, many non-profits have used the time and grant funding to focus on their Board and employee wellbeing and development.
I can’t predict what workplaces will look like when the majority of staff return but I do know that attitudes have changed, that organisations can no longer hide behind presenteeism when refusing home and flexible working for those that might need it, and that staff will remember how they have been treated. In the words of Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Managing Partner at Blacks Solicitors LLP
I’m not sure it’s a lesson that I’ve learnt but I think it’s more a reaffirmation that in life you must pick your business partners carefully. Throughout the challenges of the last 12 months I have never once doubted any of my partners in terms of their commitment, work ethic or support of the firm. In fact, the manner in which they have conducted themselves and the examples they have set has provided great comfort that in the darkest times, I am surrounded by good hard working people. Pick your partners carefully.
Founder Compassionate Leaders
Lockdown has taught me to value security more. I’m flexible and dynamic by nature and love having a portfolio career with bits of part time employment to supplement my growing leadership consultancy. A year ago I had events cancelled and lost thousands of pounds of projected income pretty much overnight. I teach my clients to “think like a CEO” – that is to adapt and flex and do what you need to do to make something work, Adam Grant covers this approach brilliantly in his book Think Again, and for me over this last year that has meant to lean more heavily on my secure work contracts.
Now I have a new baby in the mix too, I have been able to remain stable by letting go of the ego around being a business owner and embraced the security and camaraderie of employment and I love it. Don’t be afraid to take a step that feels backward if it provides something you need to stay secure. The time will come again for risk taking.