We are living in a crisis like no other. Although it will eventually come to an end, none of us know when, and nobody can predict what the new ‘normal’ will look like.
This uncertainty could be our undoing if we fail to build business resilience, because the economy is likely to be fragile by the end of this pandemic. Currently, British workers seem to understand the almost impossible position some businesses are in – and that understanding is perhaps one of the reasons why most are accepting pay cuts and furloughed leave.
However, we need to prepare for the eventuality that the economy may not just ‘bounce back’ to where it started when lockdown and social distancing ends. What’s more, if the government support ends before British business gets back on its feet, then there’s every chance we could witness another recession.
I was promoted to Managing Director of BMG in 2008, just two weeks before the Lehman Brothers collapsed and the subsequent financial crash. It was a strange time. Initially we saw a real surge in work, albeit a different kind of work. Rather than expanding their property portfolios or moving into larger premises, businesses were consolidating and downsizing. This kept us reasonably busy to begin with, although not as busy as we’d been used to.
There’s a massive temptation to cut costs and to reduce prices when there’s less work as a result of a crisis. Back in 2008, we curbed the costs we could, those that wouldn’t be too detrimental to the business. Yet, we weren’t going to start cutting our prices in the hope of receiving more work. No, for us it was about believing in the value we bring customers, and that was our catalyst for thinking harder about all the ways we could continue to provide the best service, maintain our relationships and retain our best talent.
Our decision was to hold strong. And that approach served us well. In fact, it made us more robust.
The key lesson back in 2008 was the importance of adapting to the new reality. As a business operating in a time of crisis, you adapt or die. You have to communicate better than you’ve ever communicated before. And you have to stay true to who you are.
Workplace management is a business-critical profession which can help organisations shape new and innovative ways of working. And that’s what we need right now. The coronavirus outbreak provides us with an opportunity to think about the ways businesses may have to adapt, not just during the lockdown, but afterwards when life starts to return to a closer version of normal.
Forward-thinking companies will be talking to their employees, their supply chain and their customers in order to build a strategy that takes onboard everybody’s experiences. This will allow them to introduce step-change processes that will better support the business, and everyone who’s part of it, in the future.
Let’s recognise there is no normal. And let’s become as resilient as possible so we can bend and sway with whatever’s thrown our way. Keep communicating. Act with integrity. Be adaptable. Change quickly. Trust in people, trust in yourselves. And don’t lose that sense of who you are and how you like to operate.