Dan Booth, Director of Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group, talks about the importance of business owners putting ‘communication’ at the heart of any rebuild strategy.

Before you look at any options or tools to aid recovery you have to understand the landscape and to do that you have to talk to people.

The single most important message we are giving to business owners at the moment is get out there and communicate. Understand what people are seeing and thinking. Not only will it make you feel better – we are all in this together –  it will direct strategy and approach.

By people we mean all stakeholders in a business – customers, suppliers, employees, even competitors, the industry – what is going on, what is the mood? Rest assured nobody has the answer, after all everyone is doing this for the first time. If you can come to terms with that – and that solutions will be delivered in full collaboration with other people – things will start to become clearer. Listen in whatever way works for you to each group of stakeholders and get a feel for opportunity.

So if the first thing is communicating, the second most important thing for a business owner to do is have a positive outlook. In our business we have realised in the last 12 weeks or so  that people can work very effectively from home. It will never replace the benefits of face to face and people miss the contact with others. However, it is possible to run a business with the flexibility of home working built in as standard. This will suit some people very well and may be the difference between retaining and losing them.

It is so important to look at ways of turning a negative situation into a more upbeat future.   Don’t try and solve all the issues at once – that’s not possible.  Let’s not look for a permanent solution to a temporary situation. Lockdown has only been for a number of  months, which is a very short time in the lifetime of a business, devastating though it was for some. So business owners must look at the permanent changed realities when planning the future. The conversation should be far more about long-term, future proofing for similar events. How can the business be better equipped to bounce back and prosper again.

This is also a great time to be driving efficiencies in a business. What is it that has not worked well for years and could be improved? How can a business harness the great leaps forward technology has made to be slicker in how it’s run. What has been an enforced change which is actually one for the better?

So that might be a previously all-consuming contract which always made a loss, or too many high cost suppliers or bargain-hungry customers who have put the squeeze on profit.  Now is the time to review that honestly and make some good decisions to be better at business.

It’s important to not get too hung up on a new set of rules and regulations, like social distancing and wearing masks and other restrictions. Business is well used to operating to rules and within the confines of regulation. Hard hats on building sites, pub closing times and paying 20% VAT, we get told to do things all the time. So embrace the new rules and think positively. How can we operate safely within them and adapt?

For 25 years we have been advising businesses experiencing crisis and stress, however good business principles still apply if you want a successful recovery strategy. Here’s five things that are essential to pull through this particular set back.

  1. Look at the basics – what’s coming in versus what’s going out – does it still stack up? If that’s solid you have a platform for scaling back up. 
  2. Build advocacy inside and outside the business. You need everyone pulling in the same direction.  
  3. Draw on experience in the business. In multi-generational businesses the grey hairs and wrinkles are there for a reason. Listen to your elders. 
  4. Try and keep hold of your best people. Whenever we can we try to make them part of a successful recovery story.
  5. The key things to get right are safeguarding people’s livelihoods, creating future value and getting the best deal for all.

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