• Family Business Place

MEMBER ADVICE: What can we learn from leaders on the front line?

Family Business Place member, Helen Gibson from Agencia, shares some of the things that we, as family business leaders, can learn from those working on the frontline.

As a family business we’ve been working with frontline organisations such as police forces, the NHS, prison services and governments in the UK and overseas for the last 25 years. Helping them manage substantial change and reform as well as navigating times of crisis and uncertainty. We help tackle issues such as terrorism, corruption, modern-day slavery and cyber-crime.

Personally, I also had to steer our business through a period of change when my Father, Andrew, and the founder of our company passed away in 2018. Not only was I dealing with the personal loss of my Father, but also the loss of my business mentor, leader and inspiration. Something which only fellow family businesses will understand.

In my years of working with leaders on the frontline, I’ve come to realise they are quite exceptional people. Men and women having to think strategically under extreme pressure and making decisions which could literally result in life or death.

Luckily, as business leaders, we’re probably not going to be in their situation on a daily-basis. Although the Covid pandemic has tested us like never before. But there are tremendous lessons we can learn from these leaders on the front line and apply to our family businesses during times of uncertainty.

RESET - make sense of the chaos

Step back, take a breath and digest what’s happening. The only way you’ll be able to see the whole picture is if you aren’t in it. This way you won’t miss anything and be able to identify the cracks and weak spots.

IDENTIFY - what’s not working?

Times of crises always highlight weaknesses in our business. Are your workforce slowly disengaging? Are new business opportunities harder to come by because we’re not physically networking? Are your processes and systems under strain? Has innovation gone out the window and made way for survival? Are personal relationships and team moral suffering?

PRIORITISE - what needs attention now?

Don’t be a victim of ‘paralysis by analysis’ - double down on the things which are going to make an immediate difference to your business today. That will give you the headspace to think about the longer-term things you need to do. Up your marketing and prospecting. Communicate regularly with staff, customers and suppliers. Make it easy for people to buy from you in every way possible (website, phone, social media, email).

IMPLEMENT - make it happen

Stop procrastinating - take the plunge. Whatever you decide to do, stick by your decision, articulate your vision and make sure your whole team knows what’s expected of them. As our businesses pivot and adapt to the new world, there will be major changes including redundancies and other difficult conversations. So it’s vital that we, as leaders, have belief, passion and positivity in bucket-loads. We are the people everyone’s looking at to drive the change.

MEASURE & ASSESS - is it working?

Every great business monitors its data. These figures tell you the real story and not just what you ‘think’ or want to hear. Collecting data on different revenue streams, production efficiency, marketing reach etc will help you make decisions about what’s working and what’s not. The world is changing so fast that you can’t possibly know everything (and that’s ok). But our job as leaders is to use the knowledge at our fingertips to inform decisions that will have the biggest impact on our company.

Finally… make sure you look after you. The old analogy of putting your oxygen mask on before helping others is absolutely true here. It’s crucial you make time for your own mental well-being. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, speaking with friends, time with your children - switch off (properly!) and rebuild your mental strength ready for the next challenge.

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