Lessons learned for managing childcare businesses now and in the future

James Hempsall
Monday, November 16, 2020

Few saw the events of 2020 coming.

The idea of a pandemic or catastrophic event is not new. Hollywood has toyed with these themes and manipulated human anxieties for decades.  

In business, over recent years, we have risk assessed for all sorts of eventualities, bird-flu, swine-flu, climate change, terrorism, the Millennium bug, foot-and-mouth. 

There is a long list. Some risks come and go in a whimper. Planes didn’t drop out of the sky on New Year’s Day 2000. Some are more impactful and devastating than others. Covid-19 has been off-the-scale. It has changed everything.

Here are 10 business lessons we have learned.

  1. We must expect the unexpected and be as ready and prepared for it as possible. It does mean that some of those mind-numbing risk assessments actually come in useful - sometimes. 

  2. We need to be prepared to nimbly let go of what has been before. This means not sitting in denial and acting swiftly and appropriately to change. Current business models simply might not be relevant anymore.

  3. There should be lots of talking. Talking all the time with everyone. This makes people feel acknowledged and involved.  Discussion helps us all to think through the implications from all perspectives and identify ideas that could be useful.

  4. Leadership behaviours are needed. They support teams and customers consider what could and should happen, and help allay fears as much as possible, moving to solutions that people endorse and feel a part of. 

  5. We need the physical, emotional and financial resilience to make it through. Financial reserves should be built up over time to represent at least three month’s operating costs.  Such funds might be depleted now. It remains a priority to grow them again.

  6. We should invest in wellbeing, notice the effects of pressure (in ourselves and others) and adopt good self care practices routinely for the benefit of all in the business and its customers.

  7. We need to be able to create a plan. And then we should be prepared to completely rethink it, or change it as things develop, sometimes overnight.

  8. We need the skills to identify the need to change, to lead it, and be able to make it happen effectively. 

  9. Letting go, might include becoming smaller in the short-term so that sustainability is protected, and the business has the capacity and capability to grow again, or to change and adapt to new opportunities.   

  10. Taking and making difficult decisions. As a leader this can feel like a lonely place.  What helps is building a ‘difficult decision network’ with people you can talk such dilemmas through. Or at least a network to support with the emotional effects of such pressure.

James Hempsall is director at Hempsalls Consultancy

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