Businesses of every size and from every sector have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. How important is businesses resilience at a time of crisis?
If the coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we live in a connected, hyper-mobile world. It’s not just information that can easily move from country to country!
Like many of the other challenges we face in the world today, the pandemic is a global problem. Pandemics are also not new, many experts have said we were overdue a breakout such as this, but despite that we were not really preparing, or thinking about it until it was too late.
Business resilience is a massive issue and it’s not just about having a disaster recovery plan - how many of those are now being re-written to include pandemics? You cannot have a detailed plan for every situation.
Resilient businesses need to be agile and able to adapt to changing circumstances with a genuine long-term sustainable business model, and investors that understand what that is. A lot of people don’t consider the nature of global supply chains that provide low cost food, clothes and manufactured products. I think it has been a matter of out of sight, out of mind in some cases. But to build resilient businesses we need to consider the impact they have on the world, and how they will be affected by major challenges.
There is a need for more strategic thinking and long-term strategic investments in technology and capability. Simply outsourcing to the lowest cost country is not always the best solution.
How can business leaders remain motivated and continue to lead effectively during the coronavirus pandemic?
Before the pandemic it was already hard to lead a business, especially a disruptive business pushing the boundaries and creating new markets. I believe having a real passion and purpose behind what you do helps get you through the many difficult situations that you encounter as a business owner/leader.
When the going gets tough, as it often does, you can take a moment and re-centre on that clear purpose and vision. Understanding that there will be challenges, many of which are outside your control, like the pandemic.
Not everyone will understand what you are trying to do or why, and many people will try to pull you down and you should not take that personally. Focus instead on the things you can do something about. People and situations do change and you need to be prepared to personally adapt and change as well.
You need to enjoy the ‘process’ even when it is difficult. I have seen people lose their way but it always tends to be when their focus shifts from enjoying the process to obsessing about the end ‘prize’. To put it another way, an analogy I like is that the athletes that really love training are the ones who win the medals, not the ones who dream all day about winning. They tend to burn out and end up frustrated, regardless of their raw talent.
Ultimately, doing the right things, like building a positive, great place to work, with the right team spirit and culture, where everyone understands and buys into the vision, helps to pull you along and lift spirits in difficult times.
How have businesses in the manufacturing/automotive sector responded?
The response to the coronavirus pandemic has been remarkable. I have seen the automotive sector in the North East really come together behind the great work of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), sharing best practise, knowledge and ideas.
I think we have a fantastic opportunity moving forward to highlight the North East and make sure the levelling up agenda, and COVID-19 recovery, brings new economic opportunities to the North East. It is one of the reasons that the NEAA membership have come together to form a new group to champion investment into electric vehicle powertrain development and manufacturing. Working together we can have a stronger voice and attract more support to this really important sector.
What can businesses do to mitigate the impact of coronavirus and plan for the future?
Now is the time to be thinking hard about business models - being agile and sustainable. That is going to be key moving into the future.
Also working together, collaborating with other like-minded business leaders and organisations has never been more important. Being an active part of trade organisations can help you personally by having like-minded people to speak to. It can also bring about more business opportunities.
Helping people in your workforce return to work and recover from the situation will also be key. Working remotely can make it difficult to maintain team spirit and culture, coupled with the stresses of the pandemic. Good businesses will help their teams come through this stronger, but it is going to be a long process of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ as the situation evolves. We need to be there for our people throughout this.
How is the North East LEP Business Growth Board supporting businesses and the region’s economic recovery?
The North East LEP has done a great job of presenting a strong regional voice and making sure that the needs of the region have been communicated back to government.
We now need to make sure the region benefits in the best possible way from the levelling up agenda and the recovery funding that is coming.
I know there are lots of people working behind the scenes to make sure that happens. We need to keep that strong focus on creating more and better jobs for the regional economy.
For more help and support managing your business through the coronavirus pandemic, visit the North East Growth Hub COVID-19 Toolkit.