How Can We Cope with the Uncontrollable?

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

At the time of writing this, coronavirus has had a huge impact on stock markets worldwide and many economists fear that global growth will stagnate.

The COVID-19 virus is an uncontrollable business factor.

It has the potential to affect all of us, just as it is already impacting on people’s daily lives.

For this week’s MEG roundtable discussion, therefore, we have focused on uncontrollable factors in business, and what measures we can take to try and manage the disruption they threaten to bring.

Are You an Ostrich?

A head in the sand approach is dangerous, and likely to be counter-productive.

Yes, the potential for events to run out of control is a frightening one, and this can leave us with feelings of powerlessness and futility.

But it is better to look into the darkness, even if you don’t want to.

Because it’s only by looking, and facing the threat, that you can begin to come up with realistic coping strategies.

What the ostrich is really doing is not burying its head in the sand at all, but digging holes in the ground to find somewhere safe to bury its eggs.

If you assess the wider environment and pay attention to potential threats, you can, to some degree, protect aspects of your business.

What Does a PEST Analysis Tell Us?

PEST stands for political, economic, social and technological. These are all major external factors which may affect the profitability of your business.

Generally, this form of analysis is more popular with larger businesses and corporate bodies. However, in the case of a pandemic, the bigger external factors involving governments and international relations, for example, have the potential to affect SMEs too. 

PEST analysis helps drive marketing decisions, along with research and development.

In a situation where face-to-face engagement is going to become restricted, the technological factors can take on a particular significance.

The business world’s digital connectivity is set to be a critical aspect of continued communication.

Many businesses will be looking at how technology can support effective remote working and setting up virtual meetings.

A key part of getting through a business crisis is having the right support, and continuing to feel connected.

Should You Still Market Yourself?

Should you even be marketing your business during a crisis?

It comes down to reading the situation carefully and correctly. Where there are opportunities for mutual support, raising awareness still has a hugely important role to play.

But it’s important to get the tone right.

No one will respond well to cynical and opportunistic attempts to exploit a difficult situation. And customers have long memories, so getting the tone wrong now could have a bad impact on your business after the coronavirus crisis has passed.

At the same time, it is important not to let yourself fall off the radar. Be supportive, and market your willingness to help others.

Uncertainties Will Always Be with Us

COVID-19 is an extreme example and an unprecedented situation in modern business terms, but it is also important to recognise that there will always be uncertainties and uncontrollable factors.

What we can do, in business, is to strive to control the controllables.

Rather than be caught like a rabbit in the headlights, the best strategy is to look at those areas of your business where you can do something, and where you can strengthen your position and protect your assets.

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MEG is Manchester Enterprise Group, providing supportive business networking in the heart of Manchester.

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