When a lack of confidence gets in the way of rational thinking
I suspect most of us have been thinking a great deal more about our business and specifically the future, possibly more than we have ever done before. The old normal seems an age away, albeit just a few months, and the new normal is the uncertainty we could certainly do without. It is a national and probably international mood that is perfectly emulated by the stock markets. By the 30th March this year, every stock that would experience a dramatic downturn in business hit unprecedented lows. Now we are seeing a gradual, but also nervous rise in share values with every positive and negative announcement affecting confidence and share value in equal measures.
At the start of the year, whatever our views, we had been anticipating a possible no-deal exit from the EU. An element of stockpiling cash, and consolidating investments had prevailed over the period; it was a nervous and uncertain time, but we had shown incredible resilience throughout. The election and subsequent withdrawal agreement led the way for an opportunity to look forward to 2020, full of growth and prosperity; renewed confidence was in the air. You could sense the optimism, albeit with a little fear around a trade deal eventually agreed.
Confidence and optimism grew.
Once that seemingly impossible withdrawal agreement was signed, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, and we were ready to take 2020 by the scruff of a new decades neck. We were looking forward to a period of confidence, and the best year for economic growth beyond the uncertainty of recent years. Confidence was rising, and every business-person I spoke to had a real sense of optimism for the year ahead. Indeed, many were hitting record figures in the first months of the year. They and I could see and feel the uncertainty leash loosened... Then, of course, all hell broke loose.
In early February, we were watching as China was dealing with the virus, and I suspect many of us were reviewing world maps for infection rates. I also suspect many of us were thinking, but this is Britain, we can deal with this, can't we?. Italy started to feel the effects of the virus, but surely, Italian infection rates were down to an ageing population? Or so we may have thought! Deep down that fear of lockdown, economic standstill and how it would affect us all was creeping in. It was becoming authentic. By the second week in March, many businesses were establishing their 'working from home' strategy and shortly after we were in lockdown.
'After experiencing real confidence and positivity in those early months of 2020, it is difficult for me not to feel disappointment for my clients now. However, it is all about perspective, attitude and belief. 2020 won't be the year we anticipated, but it can be a year for sustained growth. Our starting position has changed, but our future potential hasn't.'
My reflection of the past few months has been challenging to write; it is a period in my business career I could never have imagined or even contemplated. Having experienced numerous economic changes that have influenced market conditions positively and negatively, this event is wholly unprecedented, and it is an experience we would all wish to avoid in the future. We don't believe that it is our fault, of our doing, or something we could have changed, planned for, or escaped. What is in our control, or indeed, something we can prepare for, is our recovery. We have uncertainty looming with threats of a second wave, but then we hear of the first breakthrough in treatment. We have economic bodies announcing the deep and darkest recession, but others expecting a period of significant recovery over the course of the next year and beyond. The language continually taints and promotes confidence, but doesn't change reality.
While the predictions have been flowing in abundance, business owners have been extremely busy. We have spent time consolidating positions, securing financial situations, and evolving our business models to suit new markets. We have been innovative, looking at additional or new revenue streams. We have focused on our business models more meticulously than we have been able to in the past. Time, or having time to look at our businesses more deeply, has uncovered opportunities for many companies. We are adapting and evolving, and we are starting to push on those new boundaries, looking to create the type of business we wished for when 2020 first arrived. However, there is something we haven't done, or we are fearful of doing. We haven't realised as yet, market forces are out of our control, but our recovery is going to be down to confidence, rational thinking, and taking considered opportunities to move our businesses forward. We have our finger poised over the start button and are just waiting for that moment.
My advice, press start now! Those that lead the charge towards renewed growth now will be those that benefit from it most. One thing is sure, recovery will happen, and opportunities will prevail. If you haven't planned your recovery, I suggest you do so now. Don't miss out on the considerable growth that is still available to you in 2020 and 2021.