As I write, the UK is entering its second lockdown and the US is entering its second day without any clear indication of who will be its President for the next four years. Uncertainty abounds.
Does certainty even exist?
Every survey of business scores uncertainty as the most feared enemy. But I am not sure that we have ever lived in certain times. Nobody was expecting a global credit crunch and recession in 2007 when I set my current business up. Since then we’ve experienced banks going bust and being bailed out, a recession, austerity, Brexit debates, a Brexit vote, a messy divorce from the EU that is still not complete and now Covid-19. If someone had foretold all of that in 2007, I might have preferred to stay in my previous job. Yet businesses have always experienced uncertainty. In the last 20 years there’s been 9-11, further acts of terrorism, the boxing day Tsunami, SARS, cryptocurrencies, smartphones, Fukushima, as well as the usual rounds of political shocks, wars and natural disasters.
Focus on what you do well
One of my favourite maxims is ‘Control what is controllable’. I’m sure we’ve all spent enough nights awake worrying about things that never happen, so its helpful to focus on the stuff we can manage. Like everyone else, my business has been impacted by the economic fallout of 2020, but I am also aware that we’ve been successful for more than a decade in other uncertain times, so its helpful to keep in mind that the basic business model is sound.
We accepted quite early that 2020 was going to be economically grim, so what could we do to protect ourselves in the short term but also to put the right processes in place for the longer term? Granted, I am not in the difficult position of running a pub, hotel or restaurant, where the impact has been felt most. Having said that, necessity drives innovation: many of the most impressive stories in the last nine months have been from businesses you would expect simply to curl up in a ball at the start of lockdown.
A hardy spirit
In tough times its important for entrepreneurs to remember that they are different to the rest of the world: they embrace adversity; they thrive in chaos; they do not accept the status quo. Uncertainty might be the biggest enemy of business, but it is the life blood of start-ups everywhere. Start-ups are founded with the desire to explode the status quo. New businesses want to create uncertainty. Perhaps they are also best placed to react to it when it comes?