How Entrepreneurs can rise like a Phoenix

What can entrepreneurs and SME leaders do as Covid-19 impacts small businesses

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Start-up life is complex and tough at the best of times, with the impact of the coronavirus it now feels like a mixture of super scary and in some ways an exciting challenge. I believe that entrepreneurs have the skills and personalities to rise like Phoenix's from this crisis. 

For many, the harsh reality is that their beloved business might fail, or at least be mothballed for several months. We have been given a glimmer of hope by Rishi Sunak who has almost tripled the coronavirus rescue package for the economy as he promises to do 'whatever it takes' to tackle an economic emergency, but there are thousands of entrepreneurs in the UK who will be worrying  about what to do. 

At let's reset we have spent the past couple of weeks reworking all our face to face workshops online and creating new programmes that may help and support our clients through this challenging time. Let's reset has never been a better name than now, where businesses need to think about the commercial and emotional health of their companies and people as they work out strategies for both now and the future. 

I have been surprised at how slow many entrepreneurs (and businesses in general) have been in creating an evolving 90 day emergency plan,  highlighting all the risks and opportunities.  Cash flow is tight and even with government support I fear that many SME's will go under before they have time to work out a way forward

One of the biggest challenges for those companies that can trade, has been how to get everyone working effectively online. The tech platforms,  after a few band-with issues seem to be doing a great job,  but judging from some of the dull and monotonous virtual meetings I have attended, it would be good to now concentrate on how to create, develop and run engaging, effective, collaborative remote meetings not just work online. New muscles are needed fast.  

Our first instinct as entrepreneurs is survival, we are all running a  business and we all have commercial deliverables. There are several entrepreneurs that I have admired with their agile response to the crisis we find ourselves in.  Sifted provide a community of European entrepreneurs a place to share inspiring ideas, make meaningful connections and collaborate to be more successful. “As always when the wind turns and skies turn grey, as a startup you need to mind your costs and come back to the basics of cash management,” says Albin Serviant, Chief Executive of company builder Founders Factory in Paris. 

Debbie Wosskow CEO Allbright has urged her members to 'take a moment for the sisterhood' at this challenging time to help each other and 'don't think too far ahead or too short term'.  They have created a great sense of community and support for their membership, a combination of mentoring, practical advice and online workshops for business, physical and mental wellbeing. 

In my book Let's Reset we talk about the many challenges that entrepreneurs face in general times, before the coronavirus, let alone now.   According to  research by weare3Sixty in 2019 - Entrepreneur Pressure and Wellbeing Study, nine out of ten entrepreneurs reported signs of mental health strain, with symptoms including sleep issues, exhaustion, panic attacks and migraines.The three biggest pressures were found to be,  unsurprisingly, risk, the challenge of decision-making and lack of resources (including time and finance). Grit or resilience is, for almost all of us, seen as vital and we need it now more than ever.  

However, like just me, almost all entrepreneurs and SME's  love what they do and are passionate to make a difference. A focus on commercial outcomes is of course vital, and creating and finding supportive environments, building soft-skills like wellbeing and resilience at this challenging time will enable some small businesses to survive and then thrive. The ability to pivot and be adaptive is something that entrepreneurs do best. 

Christina Richardson, is a great example of this. She is Co-founder, Weare3sixty In her story in the LET'S RESET book by Suki Thompson & Rankin she suggests:

‘You have to name it to tame it’

"Nothing quite prepares you for the life of entrepreneurship. I wouldn't change it for the world, but I do things differently now. It was during my second tech-startup that the struggles really started. On paper things looked great - a solid team, a few awards, some well-known clients - but my co-founder and I were spread across two countries, working relentlessly and eventually we both completely burned out. I would get unprompted panic-attacks doing everyday things like walking the dog or reading a book - I'd basically wired my brain to think the smallest thing was a catastrophe.

 With help, I learned to identify what I was feeling and rewire my brain back with daily breathing exercises. It was a long hard slog, but I can happily say I haven’t had an attack for over a year now. At the back of my mind though, there is always a fear of relapse and that fuels little everyday commitments to prioritise our own wellbeing, even while being an entrepreneur.

The experience got me interviewing other entrepreneurs, only to find that a staggering 9 out of 10 are showing signs of mental health strain too. That’s when I set out to do something to change that. To perform at our best, we need to invest in ourselves. A simple ethos that helped me was “Name it to tame it”. When stressed or overwhelmed, rather than suppressing how you feel and just pushing on, write down all the emotions you’re feeling. It saps the energy from the pent-up feelings and gives you the power back. "

Weare3sixty are offering Founder Fix Up Fridays, where entrepreneurs can grab a cuppa and join others on a Zoom meet-up – at 1pm. It’s free,  click here to join

These are very challenging times, news is full of SME's and entrepreneurs that are having to close their businesses, but there are also great examples of people and companies who are doing great things in this crisis:  Joe Wicks, The Body Coach  has daily exercises for children to stay active in the lock-down and is donating the profits to the NHS. 

 Davina Mccall 'Own your goals' website is free for the next 30 days, Jodie Steele is running Zoom workshops on musical theatre and dance workshops,  Jamie Oliver is showing us all how to cook using basic ingredients, 'keep cooking and carry on’ and businesses like Wagestream the payroll support company is working with the NHS for free to support their workers as it begins to help many companies in the UK go through furloughing, providing people access to wages that they have earned and government payments they can receive. 

With the companies I am part of we have all looked to pivot at this critical time;  At Xeim (Centaur Media) we have created a number of additional online workshops and research programmes.   Oystercatchers is  running pitches online via zoom and is hosting a weekly coffee morning, live catch up with its Club client/agency community via its platform.  Marketing Week is running a series to provide practical advice on how to prevail in the time of Covid-19 hosted by Mark Ritson and  Econsultancy is helping  marketers to use this time to run online training programmes to help their marketing teams. 

I sit on the board of the Law company Gateley Plc and like many management service companies they have been working round the clock to provide expert advice, with implications for people, money and trading to companies, SME's and entrepreneurs to help them through this crisis. 

The NHS believe that the mental health crisis will happen in the UK at the beginning of June,  ITV is using its reach and scale to support mental health wellbeing again next week, with another film encouraging people to reach out the elderly or vulnerable neighbours. 

Mental wellbeing will increasingly impact the workplace, so at let's reset we are running online workshops; Creating new muscles,  How to rise like a PhoenixYour new secret weapon to help companies and leaders think about the impact of remote working on their people, how to help employees become more effective through increasing their resilience and using their grit to ensure they can continue to deliver and the mental wellbeing of their staff as they pivot their organisations. Our platform is there to help companies share their stories of success and failure and for SME's and entrepreneurs to promote their services during this time and beyond. 

Entrepreneurs grow businesses by thinking differently, being creative, creating  powerful cultures and followers and pivoting when they need to. For many entrepreneurs and in this challenging time, we need our people to be at their very best when they work remotely, connecting to their company purpose, developing grit to keep going through the crisis and thus emerging like a Phoenix on the other side. 

If you are promoting a positive working culture in your business during the Coronavirus , have a story about how you are keeping your business running or just want to share your story of being an entrepreneur, business leader or employee at this extraordinary time, we would love to hear from you.  You may also be able to promote your business on our website.  Drop me an email at let's reset or leave a comment below. 

Suki Thompson

Founder CEO , Let's Reset

Suki Thompson is well-known in the media and communications industry as a serial entrepreneur; co-founder of the award winning Oystercatchers, marketing consultancy, Haystack and Bunker Gin and now Founder of Let’s Reset, the cultural change transformation company. She is also Executive Director Xeim/Centaur Media and NED Gateley Plc. As a transformational business leader with a passion for promoting business cultures founded on commercial effectiveness, wellbeing and resilience, Suki is regularly named as one of the most powerful people in advertising by industry bible Campaign, was a previous Chair of The Marketing Society, a member of WACL, received an Honorary Doctorate from Coventry University for Marketing & Entrepreneurship and in 2018 landed Entrepreneur of the Year by WinTrade. She has advised some of the most powerful brands globally including, McDonald’s, Samsung, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Barclay’s and Landmark and worked with the top agency groups including WPP, Omnicom, Havas, Publicis and Interpublic. Suki was a Trustee of Macmillan Cancer Support for eight years, following her first of four cancer diagnoses in 2008. Since then she has discovered she holds the BRCA gene. This has led her to think carefully about her own wellbeing and contributed to her enormous resilience which led her to writing the book, Let’s Reset. Suki has two children Jaz, who heads up Let’s Reset Education and Sam, both of whom appear in her book, Let's Reset with Rankin.
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