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Resilient thinking for businesses

This article first appeared in Choice Health Magazine and was written by Tianne Croshaw. 

Being in the coaching and training field, I am naturally interested in what makes a person, a team or an organisation more resilient than others. Why can some people or organisations weather storms like a strong, oak tree while others snap like a brittle twig in the wind? Researching this area is very enlightening as we can see that resilience can be learned and developed and we can not only survive but thrive in this now rapidly changing business world?

The key is to stay focussed on our vision as practitioners/business people and to stay ahead of our game. Whether we dislike or embrace change, the one thing that is certain is that we need to accept and get use to this modern environment. Some of the elderly generation have taken to the internet, emailing and Skype although a large percentage have not and that is totally their prerogative. If modernising is not vital or of interest in a person’s world then to try and enforce new learning upon a person would only create stress. However, anyone who is in the employment age bracket who wants to avoid stress needs to make friends with our new friend ‘Change’. During a coffee break at a clinic I was working out of, I heard Jane (name changed) the Herbalist say, ‘I shall just keep my head down, and get the clients when I can. I will build my client base up once the economy improves when people start spending on their wellbeing again.’ Jane will be very lucky indeed if she has any business to build up if she plays the ‘Waiting Game’. Times are changing and so must how we as self-employed people view life.

In recent years the world has been witness to large, familiar companies that were part of our childhood memories disappear by not displaying the traits of a resilient organisation. Woolworths, Blockbusters, Kodak… and the list unfortunately goes on were once successful and seemingly powerful businesses. They clearly didn’t move with the times. Technology was changing right under their noses and along with that people’s buying habits and needs.

Maurice Tomkinson, the cofounder of The Resilience Programme uses Kodak as a fascinating case study inspired by the Coursera course “Surviving Disruptive Technologies.”

Maurice shares how Kodak, founded in 1880, established a market dominance in photographic film. In 1962, they had achieved $1 billion in sales and by 1976 had 90% of the market for film and 85% for cameras. Shares for this company peaked in 1996 at $94.75.
Kodak has been a household name to a couple of generations so how sad that this particular organisations story ends in 2012 when Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection when shares were worth a mere $0.15. Clearly, digital photography was to take over and the need for film diminished rapidly as consumers habits changed. The disturbing twist at the end of Maurice’s presentation is when he reveals the name of the person who invented the first digital camera in 1975 (a 20-year lead in the market). Its inventor was Steve Sasson, and Steve Sasson worked for Kodak! This company was evidently not resilient for a number of reasons and in particular was the resistance by employees of senior management’s efforts to go digital.

So what can we as coaches, trainers, practitioners and therapists learn from this sad but inevitable story so that we can display the traits of resilience and move successfully forward with the times?

Firstly, we need to look at what we offer in the  present. As our clients and customers are also experiencing this changing world if you can help  meet their psychological need for certainty by offering a consistent service and product you will increase your chances significantly in attracting a loyal and committed fan base. You will have a much more resilient business if you can niche your services or products: such as a Personal Trainer focusing specifically on inch loss or a  hypnotherapist dealing mainly with stress and anxiety for example. It can feel a bit scary limiting yourself to a niche area however, if you create a plan and take action to becoming known as an
‘expert’ in that field or area then you have the opportunity to stand out and be noticed in what can be highly competitive markets.

Any good Life Coach or business person will tell you we need to have a clear vision of our  business in the short-, medium- and long-term future. Successful individuals such as Sir Richard Branson and Lord Alan Sugar are planning the future of their business through to the next generation.

In 2012, research showed that the coaching, training, consultancy and speaker industry had the second highest growth rate according to Dan Bradbury, an expert in marketing for coaches, consultants and trainers, one step behind the IT industry. He goes on to share a very interesting statistic around how many individuals are making 80% of the income. The answer was only 6%. I was dumbfounded to hear this as my next train of thought for all the people in that particular field is 94% aren’t making a high standard of living from their profession.

If you are not part of the top percent income earners in your field and rely solely on your practice’s income then you may be familiar with the ‘Famine or Feast’ income flow which takes a resilient emotional and mental mind to handle. In my work, I come across a lot of therapists, coaches and practitioners, and these individuals display strong resilience qualities that many employed people do not.

People who have chosen to work for themselves and create a business to sustain them in the future tend to have learned to keep their resolve strong when cash flow is low. This is why they need to be very clear about their business goals and most importantly their ‘Reason Why’. It is vital to have a strong enough reason why. This is what will motivate them when storms appear and what they can rejoice in and celebrate when times are good. So going back to Kodak…. One of the valuable lessons we can take is to be aware of our own ever changing market. Get good at and become known for having up to date knowledge. Be a researcher of your industry and always create new and exciting ways to present to your niche market.

Ultimately keep on believing in your vision and treat yourself you as you would one of your clients and you can’t fail to create a more resilient business.