The opposite of a fragile business is… (Not what you expect)

01st July 2020

What’s the opposite of a business that is fragile?

Until recently, I would have said a business that is resilient, and which is built to withstand shocks and turmoil.

In fact, that’s been one of my themes over the past few weeks. As we gradually emerge from the Coronavirus restrictions, your business needs to spend this time strengthening itself financially and operationally, so that if we do experience another pandemic wave or severe financial shocks, you can survive.

But recently I came across a concept which changed my thinking…

Scholar Nassim Taleb – whose 2007 book The Black Swan was described by The Sunday Times as one of the 12 most influential books since the Second World War – says that the opposite of fragility is not resilience.

After all, if fragility means that you break under stress…

The opposite isn’t ‘just’ withstanding that pressure.

It’s thriving or even growing because of stress.

He calls this “antifragile”.

Now, I recognise that for many businesses right now, simply surviving these unprecedented conditions is an enormous achievement.

But there is an opportunity here for other businesses to do more than that…

…And to use the current volatility to bounce back stronger and better.

Why can’t yours be among them?

The key, to my mind, is to resist the natural tendency to simply go back to the way you did things “before”.

You see, when the crisis first broke out, most businesses pivoted like mad.

Everyone had to change the way they worked at breakneck speed…

To think ‘out of the box’ about the products and services they provided…

And to think creatively about where they could save money and manage with less.

I saw businesses that were by all measures deeply set in their ways do all this at just a few days’ notice.

Now that the Coronavirus restrictions are slowly lifting, there is pressure in all areas to “get back to normal”.

And as the adrenalin of being in a state of crisis recedes, it’s only natural that our creativity and innovation starts to fade as well…

After all, change is a lot less urgent. We’re not forced to do it any more.

But if you’re going to not just “survive” this crisis but use it to spur growth and become “antifragile”, you need to retain that spirit of innovation and agility.

It would be an enormous mistake to reflexively revert back to what you know.

So, for example, look at all the changes you’ve already invested in, and figure out how to capitalise on them further.

  • If you’re getting ready to return your staff to your office, how can you retain some of the flexibility you had with remote working?

  • Alternately – do you really need to return to your office, or could you make savings by retaining some remote working?

  • Are there other spending cuts you’ve made, which would make sense not to restore?

  • How about the processes that you had to institute in order to continue serving clients smoothly, while your office was shut down. Is there anything there that you should retain… and maybe even improve… moving forward?

  • Then there are any changes you’ve made to your products and services - or to your supply chain. Does it make sense to keep any of these?

Once you’ve looked at the “emergency” changes you instituted during the shut-down, start thinking about the new changes that might make sense during this recovery period.

Challenge yourself to think freshly about who you help, what your offer is, and how you do it.

What can you do differently to make more money right now?

If it helps, think about this period as an emergency necessitating every bit as much innovation as the lockdown did…

…It’s really not far from the truth, given how troubled the economy is right now.

Above all, keep your expectations of your business high – aim not for “resilience” but to be “anti-fragile!”

And if you would like help with that on the financial front…

Using this disorder to significantly upgrade your financial provision…

And end up with robust financial systems and process, much deeper financial insight into your business, and much better financial decisions

…Get in touch with me today, either over email or by calling 01279 647 447.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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