In business, resilience is about having the courage to process and overcome hardship and setbacks. It’s about being able to adapt and respond to disruptions so that they don’t have a negative impact on your people and operations.
A skill all business owners have had to master in the last two years, being resilient means that you can minimise the impact of any hurdles that could prevent you from grabbing opportunities to thrive and grow.
For women who are starting their own businesses, in leadership roles, or working in male-dominated fields, resilience is part of everyday life. According to research from the Harvard Business Review, this may explain why women are better leaders in a crisis than men. According to this study, women outscored men in their effectiveness across most areas, pre-COVID and during the pandemic.
Why might this be the case?
Accountants and entrepreneurs Judy Diederick, Sam Nkabinde, and Tiziana Marsh believe that resilience is part and parcel of running a small business. It’s a skill that both men and women need to learn to succeed. “When you run your own business, failure is not an option,” admits Judy. “You just have to keep going.”
Tiziana shares this sentiment. “No matter who you are, there will be times when people interact with you or speak to you in a way that they shouldn’t,” she shares. “But having resilience demands that you pick yourself up, move forward, and learn something from the experience to grow in the future.”
That said, they agree that women in business often find themselves on the back foot. This reality has forced the trio to develop different strategies to face challenges head-on and make it out on the other side successfully.
Learn as much as you can, whenever you can
“Entrepreneurs must always be open to learning,” says Sam. “By learning about other industries and professions, you’re equipping yourself to understand a broader range of clients better.”
As a one-(wo)man band, Judy is cognisant that she is solely responsible for her own success. As such, she is constantly looking for ways to learn and empower herself to be better than she was yesterday and keep up with the trends that are set to transform the industry tomorrow.
Part of learning can mean finding the right mentor to give you advice and guide you as you navigate the complicated business world, they all agree.
Systemise, systemise, systemise
If you were to franchise your business, would your processes be formulaic and logical enough for someone else to understand?
“Systemising your business as early as possible is a game-changer because it brings order, consistency, and structure into how you work,” says Judy. If you don’t have a logical filing system or standard naming conventions for documents, you’ll waste time looking for the information you need.”
In some cases, systemising can mean putting software in place to automate processes, streamline your operations, and compartmentalise different business areas.
Be assertive when you need to
When you’re in the minority, it’s not uncommon for people to use shock tactics to unnerve you, notes Tiziana.
“In these situations, it’s important to stand your ground and be assertive because this sets the tone for the relationship. Do this often enough, and the people trying to knock you down will soon understand that you mean business and have neither the time nor patience for that kind of behaviour.”
Part of being assertive is about knowing your worth, stresses Judy. “If you know how much value you can add to a business through your services and financial advice, you mustn’t be afraid to charge for them accordingly.”
Focus on the task at hand
It can be easy to lose sight of the problem you’re trying to solve when other issues arise or when people treat you differently because you’re a woman.
For Judy, this is where staying focused is so important. In this situation, being resilient dictates that you never lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve, no matter how hard you must work or how much you must overcome to get there.
Just make it work
As Harvard research has shown, women in business were harder hit by the pandemic because they were more likely to be bogged down by the burden of unpaid care and domestic work.
This may be so, but business owners shouldn’t be too quick to blame external factors for their failings, notes Judy, explaining that entrepreneurs must take responsibility for their successes and failures.
“When you’re a woman running your own business, you’ll inevitably have to do some juggling,” adds Tiziana. “It’s inevitable that you will have to shift things around and adapt in order to get the job done.”
Be willing to wear different hats
When you run your own business, resilience entails doing things that may not be your forte or that you may not be particularly good at, says Tiziana.
“You’re the person that makes tea, you’re the marketing manager, you’re in charge of operations, you’re the IT person, and you’re everything in-between.” But in saying this, she stresses that smart entrepreneurs are also willing to outsource when necessary.
“In some cases, it’s a good idea to bring someone else in and get a professional to handle your issue because they can do so with less effort and in half the time.”
Want to learn more about resilience? Visit our Accountants and Bookkeepers Webinar Hub to watch our latest webinar series, which unpacks everything you need to know about building business resilience.
White paper: Small businesses and accountants are ready to try again
We surveyed 1,947 South African small businesses – the majority of which offer accounting and bookkeeping services – to find out how they’re coping in the new world of work. We were curious to know what they’re doing to strengthen their defences against the next disruption and how optimistic they are about the future – and we were pleasantly surprised.
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