Taking the positives from 2020 to build back better

Starting a business is hard. You only need to look at the failure rate to confirm it. And that’s in a normal, non-pandemic year. For anyone starting out now or looking to do so soon the challenges are astronomical. This is because as well as all the normal startup hurdles involving financing, staffing, cash-flow and the like, businesses are beset with a legacy of COVID-19 and the wider economic ramifications it will leave.

The silver lining to this cloud we’ve all been living under, in part, for most of this year is that necessity is the mother of invention. The restrictions and social distancing measures that have pushed us all indoors and online opened the door to a new breed of entrepreneur. One that is not only resourceful, innovative and brave but that sees the opportunities presented by the current situation. And that’s good because they’ll need every ounce of these traits.

From members of the hospitality industry diverting to delivery models to digital natives capitalise in an online-only world the pandemic has not dampened the spirit of those hungry to start a business. And as we stand on the precipice of a new year, a new vaccine and new hope for a better 2021 some of the learnings from this pandemic will prove invaluable:

Don’t lose sight of health and wellbeing 

The last nine months has felt more like we are 'living from work' rather than 'working from home' but there is no doubt that COVID-19 has caused a shift in how and where people work for the long-term.

It means that for both founders -  who are tied to their businesses, especially in the formative stages - and the staff they employ, finding time to separate work from personal life is critical. The lines will inevitably blur but effort must be made to keep them separate. Things like a dedicated shut down time, ring fenced family days, dedicated time to exercise and just getting away from the screen are key.

Understand that the challenge is not over

By all accounts we’re about to see anything from a double-dip recession to the worst depression since the second world war. Either way, the immediate outlook isn't great but starting at the bottom means the market you are starting your business in can only go one way.

Accept the initial road will be bumpy and unpredictable. You may lose deals last minute or deadlines will slip as people's diaries are disrupted. Ride it out and don’t sweat the small stuff. If your business can survive this, it can survive anything.

Place a high stock on resilience and adaptability

Understand that resilience and adaptability are important transferable skills. If you and your teams can flex at short notice to cope with spikes in demand or disruption, that is hugely valuable. As an employer, place a great stock on these traits and encourage your employees to display them - even if they don't feel then can or have the ability to do so.

The good news is, these traits are a question of nurture rather than nature and with the right guidance we can all learn to thrive, whatever is thrown our way.

Tap into the talent pool

The job market and those entering it have been some of the biggest economic casualties of 2020. Degrees and university education have been disrupted and the traditional sectors of employment in events and hospitality have been cut off as options meaning an entire generation of people are having to look to alternative sources of work.

But as an employer it means that there is a great talent pool hungry for work. Speed and turnover of work can often be the name of the game for a startup but take the time to find the people that absolutely resonate with who you are and what your business is about and who will throw themselves in at the deep end to help you get to where you’re going.

Innovate to motivate 

As people continue to work remotely and the days of the all-in-office are behind us, founders need to look at innovative ways to support the welfare, development and 'experience' of their teams to account for shifting patterns of work and communication. While there is (hopefully) still a place for it, the days of relying on a team trip to the pub to keep up morale are over and have been replaced by innovations enabling employees to tailor solutions to their needs whether that be; mental health, financial planning, coping with pressure or just a shot in the arm to get up and go again.

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a monster of a year. But like any successful entrepreneur, we must focus on the positives, take the learnings and move on to bigger and better things.