13th August 2020

Which side of the divide will you be on?

I briefly heard on the news this morning that it is expected to be announced that the UK is in recession later today. That will hardly be news to anyone that knows anything about business. You cannot expect any other result from an economy that has effectively been mothballed for four or five months.

It is not the first recession that we have experienced in recent years and every time there is a financial crisis I make the same point which is that many fortunes are made in bad times. Of course we also know the devastation of the downside too.

My question is which side of the divide are you going to be on? The side of those who prosper or the side of those who don’t. Now I know it isn’t a simple matter but I believe that a large part of the answer lies in your mindset.

I remember being in a planning meeting many years ago and we could see a downturn coming and I was making the point that our sales would be reduced in the coming year because of the economy. My boss jumped up to a whiteboard and drew a big circle, representing the market. Just inside that circle he traced a very slightly smaller circle representing the forecast market. Then within the large circle he drew a segment representing our market share and he turned to me and said, ‘the market may well be smaller Ian but are you telling me you can’t work out how to get a slightly bigger market share?’ Our market share was something like 15% and sure enough achieving 16% of the reduced market was more than enough to outweigh the reduction. We became more inventive, more focussed and again had a record year. I remember that lesson years later.

25 years of leading businesses and 15 years of coaching them has taught me beyond all doubt that that there is more potential within our circle of influence in almost every business than we know of and more than enough to counter what the economy throws at us.

The great thing is that mid market businesses should be far more inventive and agile than their bigger less nimble competition. As the economy rises, all boats rise, that is easy. As the economy recedes it is the smaller businesses who should be able to pivot and adapt better. Of course, that is not always the case. Agility and flexibility is not simply a function of size; leadership, acumen and mind set are also important factors. Current circumstances provide a great opportunity for good leaders to demonstrate their abilities and become great leaders.

Now would be a great time to develop the attitude, skills and knowledge that will keep you and your business not only safe but prosperous.