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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Need to TaKe Action When Times Are Tough? Be Prepared and do it Now!

One of the alumni of my Vistage CEO peer group used to say that your average CEO/MD is confident, outgoing, decisive, energetic, far-sighted among many other desirable personal attributes and underneath they are a bubbling mass of insecurity.

Rather over the top perhaps but it does illustrate the exigencies of the responsibility for a business and its people.

Above all is the feeling of impending problems perhaps when the economy shows a reluctance to improve and a marked tendency to decline with all the consequent implications for the business.

For example, the effects of the weakness in sterling, the uncertainties of the Brexit process, increased costs due to business rates and pay legislation, have all contributed to a slowdown in retail activity  and in the consequent loss of many high street outlets and jobs.

There is a good deal of hand wringing going on with businesses, unions and, of course, the media about how dreadful is the situation but few cogent ideas as to a solution. The cry goes up:  “The government needs to do something about it”.

Not so. We need to understand and accept that, at best, government can do little to achieve anything more than some tinkering around the edges of the economy.  Global influences are far more relevant these days in their effect on the domestic economy.

I was struck last week during a one-to-one with one of my members when he asked  a very thoughtful question.
Why is it” he said, “if it is the right decision to make in response to a downturn, that we do’t do it now?”  

I did mention the wise advice of Mark Twain who said: “I am old and have known many troubles but most of them never happened”.

Of course part of the answer is that we go into defensive mode when these external influences result in problems not of our making and when we are then forced into remedial action.

The problems arise from that group of external influences under the acronym PESTLE (political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental) over none of which we have any significant influence.

Indeed, the only action we can take is reactive as the event hits home and by then it is often too late.  Or is it?

Back to my member’s question. Agreed if we wait for  events to arise we can only react to mitigate any harmful effects but how often do try to anticipate events?

It has been said wisely that nothing happens suddenly. There is always a progression of smaller events leading up to the major one, even happenings like road accidents, weather and Heaven forfend, wars.

If that is truly the case (and check it out for yourself) then we ought to be able to do something about it now rather than wait for the cataclysm.

UK Vistage speaker, the wonderful Jo Haigh, says that Health and Safety needs to be a constantly recurring item on the agenda of any company board meeting.   Why not extend that philosophy to items under the PESTLE headings that maybe significant to the business?

Indeed, it seems to make sense for every member of the management team to take responsibility for investigating the potential impact of a particular and potential PESTLE event that could have a bearing on the business.

You won’t be right all the time but it may just save you from a last minute reaction to save a situation. Time spent in preparation is seldom wasted.

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