On Saturday lunchtime, I was sitting in the sun, enjoying a Greek salad at a Greek owned deli, drinking an Italian beer and speaking to my wife and children in Portugal. Bliss, or it should have been, but I was very troubled!
I was reading the Financial Times to try and understand the ramifications of the momentous decision the country had made for our own business and the hundreds of businesses we support. The only conclusion I could reach was nobody knew what was going to happen next….I felt very much like I did in late 2008 during/after the banking crisis.
We started The Alternative Board in early 2009 and many well-meaning people thought we were mad. We were, but we also knew that business leaders needed what we do more than ever – our proposition was and is compelling. We also knew we had the drive, motivation and support we needed. In short, we controlled the things we could control and ignored the things we could not…..they were going to happen anyway and it was a waste of our energy and brain power to concern ourselves with things we could not influence.
My very top tip, is control the things you can control, forget about what you cannot control and remember you are not alone.
Members of The Alternative Board (TAB) have the opportunity to get totally impartial insights from fellow business leaders about any changes they are thinking of making. Having access to 200+ years plus of business experience through one of our boards is invaluable at any time, in uncertain times it is an essential resource.
Below we set out some top tips from our facilitators to help you make sense of things in these uncertain times.
- Many of your employees will be worried, in particular anyone not eligible for a British passport. Do take the time to talk to your teams, listen to their concerns and do whatever you can to support them/give them confidence they are not going to lose their jobs.
- Teamwork – together a small motivated team can achieve great things. The England Rugby Union team proved that on Saturday, Iceland proved it very recently!
- Leadership – in times like this you need to dial up your positivity, in a credible way of course. As negativity will abound you need to provide the antidote for your team.
- Consider mapping out your own customer base and your customers’ customer base – anticipating how they will be affected will help you understand the risks they face and the potential impact on you. The same goes for your supply chain.
- Invest time with all key customers, suppliers and stakeholders – they are all as uncertain as you are so engaging with them will give them confidence you are under control. Do not become internally focused.
- Do not watch/listen to the news or read the paper! The media thrive on speculation, supposition and spreading bad news/fear. We are going to have months, possibly years of it. Unchecked, it gnaws away at your resolve, your resilience and your well -being. This may seem extreme, but block it all out. This was the sage advice from very experienced colleague from Canada in 2009 and it helped many to cope better with the uncertainty.
- It is likely the financial markets will go “on holiday” for the summer, possibly longer. If you are raising funds be prepared for a longer decision making process, more detailed questioning and prevarication. At the out-set nail the timetable and make it clear a “no” is better than a “maybe”.
- In uncertain times it is comforting to be as financially strong as you can be. Consider not paying that dividend you had planned and retaining the cash in the business, renew the overdraft facility you never use and communicate with your funders so you are less likely to get the rug pulled on your working capital lines.
- If you are exposed to the Euro, the US dollar or other currencies – think through your risks, your commercial/contractual mitigation strategies and of course your options regarding foreign exchange.
- Business leaders are the same as the rest of humanity and have their own anxieties; it is just that it is hard to show it to family, to colleagues and to stakeholders as everyone depends on you. Unlike many business leaders, TAB members have a safe haven where they can share their concerns, get a range of views and make better decisions.
Authored by Paul Dickinson, MD, The Alternative Board (UK)