There’s a proverb that goes: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is right now.” The naturally vulnerable Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) and entrepreneur sector would have done well to build their resilience prior to COVID-19. But if they didn’t, as with so many, right now is the time to plant the seeds for short, medium and long-term resilience.
After all, the next shift is sure to come whether it is in the form of a pandemic, extreme weather, forest fires or rising seas. And we might even still be recovering from this one when it does.
Resilience requires entrepreneurs to engage in two somewhat contradictory activities: one is bouncing back from the collapse of markets, the breaking of supply chains, and the depletion of workforce capacity. The other is learning how to leap forward into markets, supply chains and talent markets where the rules for survival and success are unclear and changing.
To bounce back and leap forward, SMEs and entrepreneurs need to respond effectively in five key pillars that together form resilience. These are leadership, revenue, organizational, financial and operational. However, responding effectively depends in large part on having prepared to do so.
- Leadership resilience
Leadership resilience is a team sport, contrary to some views of leaders as lone heroes; it requires you to fortify an entire network of relationships, taking in all your stakeholders, from your customers and suppliers to your community.
First, map out those relationships. Then rank your dependencies in order, paying close attention to those you are most dependent on for viability and growth. Third, identify those relationships that are in the greatest need of strengthening – the least resilient ones. This should not prove to be an exercise in assessing the vulnerabilities of the stakeholders themselves, rather the vulnerabilities in the relationships you have with them.
Proactively go about making the key relationships more robust, by developing communications plans and protocols and identifying information that is key for your stakeholders.
Identify and take care of your personal vulnerabilities as well, such as health or finances. Eat well, exercise, prioritize sleep and stay in touch with loved ones. Stockpile knowledge that may seem irrelevant for the short run but could become extremely useful when shifts do happen. That means: do learn that new language, develop skills in using remote platforms, study geopolitics, and so on.
Resilience is a team sport; it requires you to fortify an entire network of relationships, taking into account all your stakeholders, from your customers and suppliers to your community.