Tanya Warnakulasuriya elaborates on how a business can shift from surviving to thriving

In our uncertain geopolitical climate, the word ‘survival’ seems to be on everyone’s lips. How do we survive these times of uncertainty or ensure that we live to see another year? How do we do enough to keep the coffers full and bills at bay?

This fear-based thinking may guarantee that we survive but it does nothing to ensure we thrive.

No matter how large or small, every business needs a few key elements that it nurtures to not merely endure but flourish in times of uncertainty. Without trying to insure against uncertainty, we should accept that this is the state of the world in which we now live and shape our businesses accordingly.

The first key area on which an organisation needs to focus is its workforce. A business is only as good as the people working for it – from the delivery chap to the CEO, everyone must know their part and play it well.

As for the workforce, it’s been in a major state of flux for a number of years.

We have more women joining the workplace and a rapidly ageing workforce, as well as young job entrants who are demanding different and more flexible ways of working. Such changes bring with them a rich mix of abilities, skills and personalities into the workplace, which need to be expertly managed and utilised to get the best out of them.

Managers who simply rely on business processes and qualifications on CVs to ensure their staff is productive and completing the job are missing a trick. Individual talent and combinations of skills that can be developed from picking the right teams for the right jobs can produce incredible results that catapult a business to the next level.

As well as thinking out of the box, a business needs to have processes and protocols that ensure it can adapt to rapidly changing environments when it comes to creating a flexible workforce.

Change management is not something that happens once in a blue moon… not anymore.

Change is the norm in today’s business world, and so business practices need to be clearly communicated, understood by everyone and regularly reviewed to ensure they’re still serving the business effectively. Where they’re not, they need to be removed or adapted.

As opposed to those that are merely surviving, thriving businesses are results-based operations. If you ask them what they do, they won’t tell you only what projects or operations they’re involved in; but rather why they do what they do.

This is the difference between businesses that work harder and those that work smarter.

In smart businesses, all staff, the operations, processes and even physical locations are designed to serve a specific set of purposes and achieve specific results. They know their strengths. All members of staff will be able to tell you in what their company excels and what sets it apart from other businesses in the industry. They will also know who their key clients or customers are.

In large companies, the communications team will be invaluable in disseminating market and customer information to its different divisions to ensure that they know how its work contributes to the main objectives of the company. Even in a small business, informal networks and regular updates from senior management will help various operations understand the part they play.

The business culture of a company is also very important but it’s often overlooked. For example, the culture at Dialog will be entirely different to that of Etisalat.

When it comes to survival, a business with a culture that relishes change and is flexible and innovative will do better in the current climate than one that is slow to adapt to change. New company structures that tend to be flatter with flexible work methods tend to perform better than traditionally tall structures, which are more process-led.

Of course all these things – flexibility, fast-changing work practices for staff and changes in procedures – will need flexible finances to make effective changes. This means that businesses need to ensure they manage their profitability effectively and more importantly their liquidity.

Effective cash flow management is a must-have if there are to be readily available funds to make swift changes when required.

Companies need to stop fearing uncertain business climates. They must accept that the ability to steer through continuously changing environments is now a fundamental skill that is essential if they’re to do well. Buffering and protecting ourselves against change and maintaining a ‘business as usual’ attitude may work for a while; but it results in serious stress and a drain on resources.

The sooner we learn to embrace change and adapt to rather than resist it, the easier we will move from surviving to thriving in business.