Small Business Saturday Blog

If you are going through hell, keep going

Wednesday, February 25 at 14:33Inspiration

Churchill first said this when he took the reigns in 1940 and faced down the Second World War. Pretty much in the face of unbeatable odds, he refused to give up.

Businesses small and large face these challenges every day, and it is the Churchillian that survive. At some point, all businesses will go through a tough time and it will seem that survival is impossible.

GM faced down bankruptcy, one of the biggest in US history, used it as an opportunity to reassess, and survived. Smaller businesses across the world face what can feel like a biblical apocalypse every day, and whether they survive or thrive depends on how they handle the fire.

Taking Churchill’s words, if your business really is in crisis, standing still really isn’t an option. When you are in hell, you will either be consumed by the flames, or you have to push yourself on. But often the hardest thing to do when in a crisis is to see a way out: how can the business use this as an opportunity?



We help businesses in crisis all the time – and we see the same behaviours coming up again and again. It is hard to make good decisions when you feel like life or death can rest upon them. It is also hard to take risks when this may be the last one you take. But, and we cannot stress this enough, there has never been a more important time to make decisions and take risks.

The process to get out of this situation may differ by business, but there are 5 key steps we find over and over again can make all the difference:

1. Focus. 

Define EXACTLY what the problem is and get your best people (or best mates, or best contacts, or a mentor, or reach out to someone you admire on Twitter…) to start articulating the problem with you. What exactly needs fixing? Is it customer numbers? Is it customer satisfaction? Is it production? Is it a failing market? Be clear on what the (main) problem is and focus in on it (remembering, there will always be smaller problems, but if they are not critical, they can wait until later)

2. Work. Hard. 

This is no time for long lunches, procrastination or being too busy on the day job. Strategy often gets put to one side, then to one side, and then addressed later as the day job takes over, and that is easier to address. You know where you are with the day job. It is a nice place to hide your head… But in the end, it isn’t going to solve the Big Problem (see point 1) so let’s put that down for a moment and start work on the tough stuff

3. Think differently. 

The old adage, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got, couldn’t apply more here. If you always plan, build a strategy, think about your market and customers in a particular way, now is the time to do it differently. Throw out the rule book and try and look at things afresh. This is a tough one – it is hard to break habits, particularly in a business that has worked in the same way for a long time. Make this easier on yourself by bringing in some outsiders, or looking at other businesses for inspiration. How would Virgin approach your problem? How would Apple? How would Joe The Guy In The Business Next Door? We think that bringing in a little innovative thinking into your business can be like a gust of fresh air.

4. Work collaboratively. Learn from others. 

You are definitely not the first business to face this challenge, so find other people who have been in the same boat to help out. The story of the man that fell into a hole resonates here: a man falls into a hole; the sides are steep and slippy and there is no light – no way out. A friend walks past and the man calls out to him for help – the friend jumps in the hole. The man asks: what are you doing! Now we are both stuck! But the friend says: yes, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.
Businesses tend to focus in and look to solve their problems internally – this is not making the most of the resources available to you. Ovens&co work with people all the time who have been in this situation and can definitely show you the way forward. Lets roll our sleeves up together

5. Don’t. Give. Up. 

That’s the big one. Take the responsibility. Don’t expect anyone else to jump in. Don’t forget about it at 5pm. And don’t think, well, that was that, I failed. As Churchill said, “never, never, never give up”



We would like to leave you with one of our favorite moments of inspiration, and something that keeps Ovens&co going: the RAF motto, “Per Ardua Ad Astra” – through adversity to the stars.

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

By Ovens&co - a boutique strategy consulting house, working with the best analysts and experts in the fields of media, retail and telecoms, to deliver exceptional strategic advice to enterprises large and small - www.ovensandco.com

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