I’ve been reflecting about uncertainty over the past week while I’m managing a business in lockdown from home. The coronavirus has taken over our lives and has put everybody into a state of uncertainty but when you think about it, life is full of uncertainty.
“but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes“Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789
Life is full of uncertainty; it’s what makes life interesting. A new job, changing jobs, moving abroad, going to college, starting a family, getting married, starting a business are all leaps into the unknown. If you can’t control uncertainty, then why worry too much about it. It’s better to react, adapt, change, and focus on what you can control.
In Ireland, we have a civil society; we take care of our most vulnerable during times of economic downturn when people can lose their jobs and unfortunately their homes. However, it is essential to remember that people are amazingly resilient and resourceful in challenging times, such as these. There have been times where I have contributed substantially to the economy and there have been times where I needed economic support from the state.
The 80’s recession
My wife Miriam was 8 months pregnant with our first child Colin when the company I was working for announced that they were closing their Irish operations. We had overstretched ourselves financially to get a new home. This was clearly a massive blow for us and life seemed to have dealt us a bad hand. The country was going through an economic downturn and a global recession was in full swing. Like most Irish people in that situation, we made plans to emigrate and find a new life in another country (Australia). A phone call changed my life, “a job offer”
Redundancy and my first start-up
During the naughties, I had a very successful career at Irish Express Cargo being promoted to Director of logistics. During my time as Director of logistics, I fell in love with this type of fast-paced and hectic industry. My job spanned the globe with business trips to China, Singapore, the United States and many parts of Europe. Irish Express Cargo worked with many prominent clients such as Intel however, redundancy loomed. Irish express cargo had been acquired by an American multinational company and many jobs ended up being cut. I was in uncertain times yet again.
Time to start a business. Superior Freight was born.
Financial crash 00’s and my second startup, Zendfast
Following the infamous financial crash which had a massive impact and caused so much uncertainty, I ended up, like so many, out of work. This was to change the course of my life. I would not call my self a natural entrepreneur like Richard Branson. I had lost my job at the age of 60, with the prospects of gaining enjoyable and challenging employment near impossible. I was faced with a decision, settle for a life on the dole or get creative and start up a business.
I set up Zendfast a courier company using our own unique technology which disrupts the market. This is still uncertain times. However, we work hard and are growing our business year on year. Regardless of the outcome, I am certain that becoming an entrepreneur in a business I love was a decision I will never regret. I have thrown myself into this business and have ridden the rollercoaster of a business owner, enjoying the challenge, excitement and uncertainty of starting a new business.
A lot of businesspeople plan meticulously, work hard, and have great business ideas, but the ones that survive are the ones that can adapt quickly to change and circumstances.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”Charles Darwin, Orginal of species
The coronavirus was the biggest shock to people. Brexit, homelessness, global warming, and the 2020 election all seem insignificant when compared to a virus that can affect your health. “Your Health is your Wealth”. However, here at Zendfast, we have adapted, changed and continue to challenge what we expect of ourselves. I am not the Dalai Lama or Richard Branson, but I have come through many recessions and am living through another. Below are a few tips that I live by.
Tips to help with uncertainty
- You never know what’s around the corner, but do keep your eyes open for the changing winds.
- Work-life balance is vital, it nourishes creativity and creativity is key.
- Make your own mind up but surround yourself with smart people.
- Be forgiving, especially to yourself.
- Be honest with others and to yourself when “it ain’t working”.
- Don’t be a manager; be a leader.
- Sales, cash flow, Margin and finance all matter, don’t put your head in the sand.
- Be open, supportive and make a lot of friends.
- You can’t do it on your own.
- Strive to be happy as often as you can.