Kate reunited with her old friends from the BEST Networking from Guildford this week – hosting a breakfast Zoom to share some of the experience of, not just surviving but, thriving through the lockdown period and beyond in to the future, dealing with the ongoing pandemic.
She shares her thoughts below:
‘I was asked to speak with you today broadly on three areas – why we might have been successful throughout this period, how we were tackling our growth plans beyond Covid and some of the learnings as a business we’d made whilst tackling our response to lockdown and dealing with the pandemic moving forwards.
Our reasons for success lay broadly in sector but also where we positioned ourselves in our sector. 50% of haulage companies in transport and logistics weren’t moving in the initial period of Covid – but as a technology based 3PL we found we were well positioned to face the storm and not just survive but be able to support actively in building businesses throughout this time.
We are dynamic and able to react quickly – which meant we leant in fast to support government contracts in tackling the epidemic, and supporting pivoting businesses from traditional retail models or even experiential business models on to online experiences. And this meant our revenues didn’t decrease even though we lost over three quarters of our B2B revenue in same day as businesses shut down.
We have been battling through the outcome of Brexit so had already created a very lean business model which helped. But even through that period we were determined (some would say adamant!) and were supported by our bank to do so, to remain fully operational even as revenue dropped as we lost some clients to Europe, as yet another no deal was announced. As a consequence, when new demand stepped up particularly as online purchases sky rocketed, we were ready and able to step up. Our preparation met opportunity.
Now, looking to the future we must still plan – but how do you plan when the future is so unpredictable, other than planning for uncertainty. It’s tricky.
We are planning our future using the analogy of the old pre-Covid Normal being one side of a river bank, and the New Normal – whatever that may be, being the other side that we must cross to. And because there are so many variables and challenges we decided, instead of building a fixed plan (bridge) from one side to another, we instead created a series of ‘adaptive pontoons’ which highlight the phases and consideration of different stages of our response. These are:
- Stage 1 - React – initial response when it was key to secure, protect and reassure team and finance.
- Stage 2 – Respond – time to operationally adapt and look to what services we could provide to assist at this time
- Stage 3 – Rest – after 3 months of the prior stages the team were shattered so we had a series of breaks, holidays to regroup and reform – which was essential as this is a marathon and not a sprint.
- Stage 4 – Review – we are spending time utilising our core Black Box Thinking principle to review our response, to look at the future, to see what worked and what didn’t and to amend tactics in our business plan. It’s also time to address medium term strategy knowing what we know about rolling lock downs, continuous threats to health, etc – it’s a big project we are truly immersed in right now.
- Stage 5 – Revert – get back on track. We have a plan, we have a goal, and Covid hasn’t changed this and its time to get back on track.
Some of these stages necessarily run concurrently. And the content changes. It’s a matter of being flexible, adaptive and quick. This has really helped.
In terms of what lesson I have learnt I’d say there’s 4 biggies:
- Be a great leader of an outstanding team. A leader in good times displays behaviour, habits and rewards the team in a manner that garners respect and support, so when called upon, the team she leads will lean in. I must have done something right in the last 28 years because my team have been hands down spectacular and I am truly grateful for how hard they have worked and what diamonds they have really been. Diamonds really are made under pressure!
- Be really adaptive in terms of new ways of working – technology, working days, reporting – just embrace the new – it opens up possibilities that may be infinitely better than what you endured without thinking previously.
- Cash is Queen. It’s all about the cash so build 6 months reserves. I acknowledge there is a real balance between not employing your assets sufficiently and being prudent but I was shocked how many businesses had so little reserves.
- The most EDI focused businesses and nations did best. Look at the countries around the world who has the lowest death and infection rates. Look at their leaders. It takes DIVERSITY to have a response that is varied, wide ranging, inclusive and comprehensive. One gender, age group and ethnicity thinkers tend to come up with the same old and pale visions. Add DIVERSITY.
Trust sharing this helps. Good luck and take care’.