How are you? Never have I listened so intently to the answer to that once flippant conversation opener…

My thoughts first and foremost are with those who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, never has there been, in my lifetime, a more poignant time reinforcing the importance of looking after each other and appreciating those around us. 

My glass is always half full and I often get labelled ‘hard-working, positive and resilient’. Two weeks in and I’m trying to live up to it! I keep reminding myself how lucky we are to have our health, a garden, and jobs we can do from home. I shall not take these things for granted again. On a serious note, we’re eating as a family three times a day, we’ve sewn cucumber and carrot seeds in the veg patch and we made a fish tank out of a shoe box in ‘arts and crafts’. There’s plenty of positives if you look for them!

This isn’t my first rodeo by the way, I recruited for the banks in 2008.

My day job is to match talent to opportunity.  Capability with Need…  to do this I talk to lot of people about their business, their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  I pick up information from a broad variety of trusted sources all day every day.  Relationship driven recruitment partners are in a unique position – taking the temperature of the economy, from the horse’s mouth, day in day out.

I wanted to share what I have found when speaking to my clients and contacts over the past fortnight:  Firstly, most people I am speaking to are either well, or only experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19.  Good news.  Secondly, we’re all in this together and need to support each other.  I got grumpy and a bit negative earlier this week.  It didn’t help anyone, least of all me.

The good old days

Don’t hark on about them. Change happens. Control what you can, not what you can’t.  Be thankful the world of interim management has been buffeted by Brexit and IR35 for a good while and without realising, we’ve all been building up resilience levels ready for 2020…

We’ll all appreciate a day in the future when headwinds are light, or dare to dream, we have a tailwind!

The current situation

Surreal or as acute as it might feel right now, panic not. We’re in the eye of the immediate, short term, tactical ‘shock’ phase: How to get staff set up to work from home, how to cover the roles of people who are not able to work. What do we need to do to continue selling, manufacturing, delivering, getting cash in and limiting cash out. New announcement from Boris. New set of rules. New set of reactions. It’s common for people to prepare for the worst, and in some cases overreact. Many would argue it’s better than not going far enough in situations like this. I do remember the aggressive nature some banks and business reacted in 2008 though, and you can cut too deep. You can, with hindsight, go too far, too quickly

The future

Give it another fortnight or so and I think we’ll start to see the new norm bedding in. Thoughts will turn away from purely reactive and tactical towards medium term strategic. What change programmes do we stop (a lot of work will find itself de-prioritised, or the business case will no longer stack up), what do we continue (common sense will prevail when people have the time to think), and, the exciting bit, what do we look to start (revenue generating opportunities: product diversification, new sales channels, e-Comm…& programmes created through lessons learnt (actual digital transformation, a more rigorous attitude/ process around business resilience & risk management, better disaster recovery, re-designing organisations to better fit the new world..?).

There aren’t really many positives about a global pandemic without an antidote, especially not while “things will get worse before they get better” but (glass half full remember) when we see the peak (or at least feel confident where and when it’ll be) and when we can see light at the end of the tunnel (no matter how long the tunnel might be). There’ll be good news and upside to add to the community mindedness, positivity and team-spirit, which have burned so brightly so far….

Ben Cowan

Partner
Interim Management
Business Transformation & Technology


Ben specialises in senior level (£500 – £2,000 per day) interim management recruitment within Business Transformation, supporting organisations through significant periods of change.