Most of us are familiar with the term ‘Fight/Flight Response’. It’s an automated physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. Most of us have experienced it at some time or another. The helpful boost of adrenalin and cortisol which heightens your senses, supresses pain and gives you that boost to take action to protect yourself, or that feeling of being ‘frozen with fear’ that we sometimes feel when threatened.
I’ve certainly experienced all of these at some point or another in my personal life, but I’ve also experienced it in my business life.
So what is the right response when something cataclysmic happens in your business life? Should you fight, should you flee or should you freeze? The right answer is of course ‘it depends’. The answer in the longer term is rarely to freeze and do nothing. If something major happens, you must take appropriate action and adapt to the new situation. But it’s also wrong to take a knee jerk action without carefully thinking through the situation. It is said that to be a great leader, you have to be able to take decisive action. That’s true enough, but decisive action usually means that there has been a considered thought process behind the decision where the facts as we know them have been gathered and options generated and evaluated before action is taken.
I remember going on a life changing leadership course in the wilds of Ross on Wye. The course was run by some ex marine commandos which in itself was intimidating for a shy accountant in his first management position. It was not unusual to get a knock on your bedroom door in the middle of the night. On getting out of bed, you would find an envelope had been slipped under your door and inside it was a brief, outlining the situation and informing you that you were in charge and what your mission was. The advice was clear. Sit back and ‘grasp the brief’. That means calmly reading through the documentation, understanding the situation, and forming a plan of action to complete your mission using the resources available to you.
I have found that this works well for me in business. Taking some time to sit back and review the situation with the limited information available to you, considering the options and the available resources and putting forward an outline plan of action to tackle the situation.
The global pandemic has been a great example of this. Every business has been impacted by this unforeseen challenge. For some businesses it represents an existential threat from which they may not recover. Even then there are decisions to be taken to minimise the impact. For others it has been a great opportunity to be grasped and exploited. For most, it has meant the need to adapt to new situations and make the best you can from it.
In my experience, there have been two typical reactions amongst the members of the small business community. Many have sat back bemoaning the situation and indulging in a game of ‘ain’t it awful’ whilst waiting to see what everybody else is going to do. Others have ‘grasped the brief’ and got on with things the best they can.
There will be many casualties in this post Covid economy. Many will be innocent victims of the ruthless rounds of redundancies that we are already seeing on a daily basis. The people that do nothing and wait and see will also become casualties. My advice is to carefully consider how you will adapt your business to the new circumstances. There’s no point waiting for things to return to normal. The world has moved on and we are in a new and different environment. Consider your options and take decisive action to give your business the best chance to survive and thrive.