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Never underestimate the importance of resilience

Emma Little, CEO and founder of venue finding agency ExecSpace shares how resilience and perspective saw her business through the toughest months of the pandemic and the lessons she has learnt along the way… 

Emma Little

Crises – entrepreneurs have them all the time.

More than anyone realises, or the entrepreneurs would have you believe. In the midst of them, we put on a front and only our nearest, dearest and accountants are aware of the harsh realities. But that’s why, still, a very small percentage of the working population own their own business. Yes, being an entrepreneur is rewarding and after a lot of hard graft and knocks – lucrative, but it’s brutal too and requires a lot of digging deep at times. Resilience, above every other character trait, is definitely the only reason ExecSpace still exists to this day and that I’m not back in corporate life.

The 2020 business crisis was different though, particularly if you were in an industry, like hospitality, that pretty much disappeared overnight. All of a sudden, you could be entirely honest with your teams, even the junior members of staff, vulnerable with clients and there was no need to put on a ‘spin’ with creditors, you just said it like it was.

But 13 years in, I definitely deal with business crises differently.

Age definitely helps, but so does the confidence you get and gain through overcoming multiple, really difficult situations, even if at first the solution is not obvious and the challenge at times seems insurmountable. If you’re running a business, which inevitably at times will be bumpy and full of highs and lows, it’s really important that you don’t let it control your happiness too.

This is difficult, but it can definitely be done. Back in March 2020, when my son was 14 months old and Covid-19 was starting to take hold of the world, I made a decision that despite the fact ExecSpace was in the best place it’d ever been, I didn’t want to look back on my son’s early life and regret being distracted or upset at the prospect ExecSpace might fold and instead, I wanted to be present, enjoy this precious family time, and be confident in the fact that ExecSpace would ride this out.

Not because I knew how, but because after 13 years, I knew deep down I’d find a way, and I would like I’ve done in the past, do whatever it took to come out of this stronger and not on our knees. I’m not saying I didn’t drive myself demented trying to find solutions, new business models and products whilst I was working, but when I wasn’t, which was a lot of the time, I slept like a baby and thoroughly enjoyed some of the more positive aspects that Covid brought.

So why is resilience key? Because without it, you won’t have the ability to jump out of bed, literally some days, and keep pushing, even when it feels like your business world is crumbling around you. Without it, when told something is unachievable, you won’t think ‘screw that, it’s happening’ and without it, even when your business is in the worst state it has ever been, you set your bar at emerging stronger and more profitable and not simply surviving and scraping through.

You’ve just got to hold your nerve, keep your power and make conscious decisions.

Family, a strong team, good pals and meditation help with this. So too does the realisation that doing what really matters will always result in the best outcome.

So, what has the past 14 months taught me business-wise?

  1. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
  2. Surround yourself with a solid senior team you trust, can be 100 per cent honest with, and vulnerable in front of.
  3. It’s ok to be ‘vulnerable’ in front of clients. It’s a partnership – they’ll help you, as you would them.
  4. Even in times of business distress and enormous uncertainty, you can still be happy and enjoy life.
  5. Really focus on what you want, not what you think other people expect you to want.
  6. Regardless of knocks, keep going. You will get there.

As entrepreneurs, we’re lucky. Despite all the challenges and everything we’ll go through on the journey, it’s definitely still better than having a boss! Now that would stress me out!

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