Jane Dalton, Groundswell Innovation, shares her experiences of lockdown and tips for staying focused on long-term growth.
The past three months were due to be spent running focus groups and workshops across the country.
Instead of that the days have involved marking Year 6 Maths problems, running virtual workshops and adapting company policy.
Like almost everyone working in the Lancashire economy, the plans I thought would be in action are in ribbons and Groundswell has had to adapt.
From conversations with work colleagues, clients and suppliers, it is clear that many of the business models, revenue streams and working practices that were in place at the start of the year are no longer valid. Our teams are reduced, furloughed and virtual. There is no way to sugar coat it – the economic virus following hot on the heels of Covid-19 will not be pretty.
Cost-reduction and cash flow management have been key for most companies and will continue to be so. But as companies begin to refocus we must keep an eye on rebuilding to ensure Lancashire businesses are well positioned over the long term.
Two Zero: Female – it’s not for the faint-hearted
Before everything shut down, we had just got up and running with our pilot programme to support female founders who are scaling up. The advent of a global health crisis and the curbing of all public events meant we had the option of canning our plans entirely. I mean, who wants to talk scale-up when billing forecasts are being scaled back by a factor of 10?
The business owners who form our first Two Zero: Female programme are all inspiring women with fascinating companies. Their entrepreneurial journeys are full of awards and success stories. But regardless of past performance, all of them were bound to be tested by the current crisis.
So instead of shutting up shop, we re-configured the support programme. What was going to last three months now spans six. What would have been a mix of face to face meetings and group sessions has now been happening entirely virtually. Goodbye hotel conference facilities (sorry), hello WhatsApp and Teams.
These women have used the support network to vent, share, provide comfort and work together, to help an entire cohort of companies weather the storm.
Take a look at this IOD North West webinar on Imposter Syndrome where three of our cohort talk about their experiences of building ambition and scale-up plans, despite a global pandemic.
Two Zero: Female has not been about hunkering down.
Anyone can hibernate on their own
The point of pulling together is to provide shelter, but it’s also to build a launchpad.
It’s easier now than ever before to adapt our business models and open up new revenue streams as others dry up. It’s easier to do, because we have to, if we want to stay afloat. Necessity is a pretty big motivational force, when it comes to invention. Add that to the fact that the world just tore up the rule book and lots of doors have swung open that once were firmly closed in our minds:
“We supply restaurants, why would we dream of supplying households?”
“We work on our own, who needs to collaborate with other suppliers?”
“You have to work on site.” Cut to: “You can’t work on site.”
It’s easy to get blinded by circumstance. But we don’t have to stop moving forward. Being forced to think the unthinkable can be hugely unsettling, but it also gives us immense freedom.
As we move from resilience to recovery, let’s remind ourselves of our values and mission and get busy re-inventing ourselves to fit the new world view.