Daring to find business success while in the arms of another lockdown

SME recovery
business, success, leadership, achievement and people concept – silhouette of businessman with flag on mountain top over sunrise background

I once heard Elon Musk in an interview refer to owning a business “like eating glass and staring into the abyss”.

Nothing quite urinates on the leg of Murphy’s Law quite like starting a business, and these lockdowns are convincing evidence of that.

But if we force a bit of optimism, now is the perfect time for what we’ve been “too busy” to do, things to make our businesses and teams improve. Let’s look at our best options.

Step 1 – Evaluate

Like any champion athlete does between games, now’s the chance to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t with yourself, your team members, and your business as a whole.

The easiest methods to employ are the SWOT and the Report Card.

A SWOT analysis is where you mark four quadrants on a page, titled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (goals and good circumstances) and Threats (things that could derail progress).

The trick is to list as many of these as you can for each heading for whatever it is you are evaluating. You may surprise yourself with what comes out.

Once you have them, you want to pick the two or three most important for each. Then you want to think of how to do the following:

  • Maximise the Strengths (or double down on what’s working).
  • Minimise the Weaknesses (think of new habits that can replace the bad ones).
  • Optimise the Opportunities (plan a way to achieve them).
  • Mitigate the Threats (figure out how to avoid or minimise the impact of these).

These four plans will add immediate benefit to your business. Use them wisely.

The second method I enjoy using is called the Report Card. What you want to do is think of the most important “impact areas” of the team, role or business.

Once you have selected the necessary criteria, simply have them grade each category from an A to an F. The lowest scores will be what to improve.

Step 2 – Bolster culture

A business or team’s culture is the single greatest predictor of success. And one of the biggest silent killers of these lockdowns is how it can take you and your team members away from the culture of your business and make them reflect on their lives in hapless solitude.

This can affect turnover or have staff coming back lethargic and unmotivated.

Here are some ideas of things you can do to keep your teams engaged and close-knit.

• Assign group projects centred around how they think the business can improve.
• Task individuals to present and teach certain topics to the rest of the team.
• Create a list of questions or games designed to help staff get to know each other better, and pair staff off with who they don’t know well enough.
• Create competition by putting people in small teams and giving them a challenge to win. In the last quarantine, I made an exam based on our sales training manual and the highest-scoring team won a trip to work in Cairns.

I started with an Elon Musk quote, I might as well finish with one. In a recent clubhouse interview, the Tesla and SpaceX founder was asked, “What words of encouragement would you give to an entrepreneur?”

He answered, “If you need words of encouragement, don’t be an entrepreneur.”

Look, you didn’t come this far just to come this far. You have a great chance to take the lemons life’s given us and make the most of them; that said, if your lockdowns are anything like mine, you might just skip the lemonade and turn them into margaritas.