Like many business leaders I’m navigating the rollercoaster of challenges and emotions that come with driving a business through the new normal.  However, unlike many others, I completed the buyout of my communications business from a global agency network just six months before this crisis hit.  After many years I managed to pull it off!  We were finally independent!  We redefined ourselves, rebranded and relaunched.  We were on a high and business was booming.  Yes, I thought, it was worth taking the financial risk, worth remortgaging property in the UK and worth putting a return to the UK on the backburner for many years.

First up we had to move offices.  Yes, I’d wanted shiny new offices.  How could we feel like a new business if we had to come into the same building every day?!  In December we served notice on our lease and signed for a lovely boutique villa facing the beach road.  We got to work on fit out plans and set our move date for 1st May.

And then it hit.  Slowly at first.  We had a member of staff on holiday in the Philippines and we asked him to work from home on his return as were a little worried.  Like everyone, we had no idea of what was coming next.  We would not even be able to access our old office to pack up, let along fit out a new one!  However, it has meant we have been able to plan an office that is absolutely fit for our post-Covid world.  More free flowing space, less ‘traditional’ desks as we’re unlikely to ever return to a five-day office-based week and a more lounge style approach to prioritise comfort over corporate.

Granted there have been days where it has been hard to stay positive but overall, I like to think I’ve risen to the challenge.  That’s not possible to do alone or without a business that is well managed and was in the right shape moving into this crisis.  So, what have we done that has got us through to this point and what does the future look like?

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Cashflow is king, along with stellar financial advice and support. If you went into this crisis with a cashflow issue your days were numbered.  Thankfully my FD is beyond obsessive about always having three months of salary in the bank at any one time.  I used to find that a bit frustrating really.  Not anymore.  It’s been a godsend.
  2. Forecasting matters more than ever. Forecasting for the next four quarters ahead is critical – every line – revenues, costs, cashflow.  And then reforecast.  Plan every scenario and know the points where you’re going to have to pivot.  If you’ve got the right FD in place this part is a lot easier.  I limit this as much as I can as it stops me focusing on the team and clients and new business – the things that can change our fortunes!  But no, that’s a fool’s game in these times.  You have to know your numbers and you have to know when to act and what you’re going to do.
  3. Be as transparent as you can. I share pretty much everything with my team.  Sometimes I’m sure that’s been a bit scary lately, but I take the view it’s better to worry about what you know than what you don’t know.  And trust matters – breach that trust and it can get toxic pretty fast.
  4. Start planning the future. What kind of office will you need?  How will you protect your teams and your clients who visit?  How can you take all the best experiences from the last few months to maintain a new flexi-working model?

And I’m saving the most important point for number 5.

  1. Get inside your business – really inside. Live every part of it.  For me this has been the biggest learning and it has brought me the most joy.  I’ve realised how much I love what I do and that has come from actually doing it relentlessly day in, day out right at the coalface.  I can honestly say I know my people and my clients better than ever.  You can’t expect everyone to put their shoulders to the wheel if you’re not doing it and team spirit doesn’t just miraculously appear – it has to be cultivated, nurtured, fueled.  This has been the biggest gain from this crisis for me – the support we’ve given each other.  Colleagues looking out for each other, clients doing everything in their power to support our business and a network of industry friends all checking in with each other.  There was a defining moment about two months in when a client called me to say they had received my invoice and would put the payment straight through on the same day.  We will all remember these actions.

I hope we all come out of this remembering everything we have learned.  I know for a fact I am far better at what I do.  I didn’t think my business was ever managed badly but it’s definitely managed a whole lot better now.  But more than anything I will be happier.  More balanced, less stressed and more appreciative of what really matters.