Friday, 26 February 2021

Staying positive and planning for a post-Covid business community

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

It's been a tough year. That's an understatement. But a mood of cautious optimism can be detected in the business community. We're daring to dream of what a post-pandemic world may look like and hopefully planning for it as well.

The coronavirus hub of the Federation of Small Businesses continues to help members and non-members alike. It's regularly updated and will be guiding people through the complex world of support grants, bounce-back loans, furlough and more - as it has done since March 2020.

The FSB has also been diligently lobbying national and regional government on behalf of those excluded from funding or not getting the level of support they need. It has listened to its members' concerns and relayed them to the heart of Downing Street, securing some important wins along the way.

Supportive, welcoming and inspiring

I am a volunteer champion for the FSB. In 2019 I began to host a monthly networking event for the Staffordshire and West Midlands FSB region at the beautiful Dovecliff Hall Hotel, just outside Burton-on-Trent. 

It was gratifying that some people travelled to join us from as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire, Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. Little did we know that our February 2020 meeting was going to be our last face-to-face meeting for more than a year.

Since then, we've taken the meetings online. We've been meeting virtually on the third Wednesday of each month. Members and non-members of the FSB are equally welcome and it doesn't matter where you are based. Feedback has been great and we've been told that it's a supportive, welcoming and inspiring hour. It's also free of charge.

Liz Abram
Our next meeting is Wednesday, March 17, from 9.30am. I'm delighted to have secured coach Liz Abram, as the guest speaker for our monthly ten-minute spot. She is going to talk about setting boundaries and expectations for post-covid business. It's a subject that lots of us may be thinking about now. 

Do we really want EVERYTHING to go back to the way it was in February 2020? We have all learned so much since then about technologies such as Zoom. Will they permanently change the way we run our businesses?

Maybe we haven't fully appreciated how much we have adapted to this strange world. 

What are you going to do differently?

Liz is going to be taking us through the questions we need to ask ourselves as we plan for our post-Covid businesses:

  • What are we NOT prepared to rush back to - and why? 
  • What has lockdown shown us about how we operate? 
  • What do we know about ourselves a year on? 
  • Are there fresh ideas and opportunities we should explore?

It's a session that won't answer those questions for you, but will hopefully prompt you to think from a slightly different and resourceful perspective and prepare for the future.  

Everyone who attends gets a chance to speak for 30 seconds about their business and post all their contact details, website links etc in the meeting chatbox for others to download. To book your place at the meeting, click here.

For more about Liz, and the performance coaching work she does with individuals, look or visit for her work with teams, which she does with her business partner, Guy Hipwell.

Free publicity for small Burton businesses

Another project I work on, which that aims to bring a burst of optimism into the local business community, is Burton Small Business. I run this, as a labour of love, with fellow Burton-based business owners Cheryl Morris and Tilley Bancroft. 

Last month we launched the #BurtonBusinessSpotlight. This was an idea from Cheryl to invite small, independent businesses in our town to share their stories with us and be featured once a month. Burton's specialist cheese shop, The Cheese Station was first off the mark and became our first-ever #BurtonBusinessSpotlight.

We aim to keep the mood upbeat on our social media channels and focus on the news and information that is positive and helpful. We're back in the routine of sending out a monthly email newsletter, so if you'd like to subscribe, you can subscribe here. If you want to submit your business for a future #BurtonBusinessSpotlight, there are more details here on our website.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

A golden ticket to the future

The news that Derby Theatre is planning a community play to mark the 75th anniversary of Derby County’s 1946 FA Cup win has set me thinking about how life can turn on a sixpence.

The phrase ‘everything will turn out for the best’ rings hollow when it seems that the fates are conspiring against you. Maybe it’s a human trait to hold fast to the belief that ‘it will be all right in the end’ and ‘if it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end’.

So, what has this got to do with Derby County football club?

I am a woman who

My dad was born in 1930 in Woodville, South Derbyshire. His dad, a coal miner in a local pit, was a Derby County fan and dad followed suit. By 1946, dad was a 16-year-old junior clerk in the offices of one of Burton-on-Trent’s many breweries.

The story that unfolded that year, as Derby County embarked on its only ultimately successful FA Cup run to date, is one that I shared when I was invited by Sandra Garlick to contribute a chapter to her 2020 ‘I Am A Woman Who’ book.

My dad died in 2018 and I think I was still processing that when the opportunity to submit a chapter to the book came along in 2019. 

If my dad hadn’t gone to watch Derby play Birmingham City in the semi-final of the FA Cup – and been sacked as a result – he would never have met my mum and I wouldn’t even be here.

That set me thinking about the leaps of faith we all take and the consequences they have. I saw there was a clear line from his decision aged 16 to follow his team (against the instructions of his boss) to a decision I took in my early 20s to resign from a secure job on the Hull Daily Mail. I slung a duvet in the back of my car and drove to London to shift on the national newspapers. Both decisions flew in the face of common sense. I had no work lined up and nowhere to live. But it was as life-changing as my dad’s choice to go to a football game.

My dad was often surprised, in later years, at his impetuous decision – which was made after his boss refused his request to leave work early one Saturday to get to the semi-final in Sheffield.

When I look back I am equally amazed at the calm certainty with which I decamped to London. If I hadn’t, I would never have met Bill and our children wouldn’t be here.

Creative pursuits and mental health

After a year that has been hard for all of us, including creatives and theatre makers, it is great to have things to look forward to and, for me, the Derby community play is certainly one.

I’m currently working on my own first play, about the home front during World War One. I started it before lockdown, devoting Fridays to it in the inspirational surroundings of The Trinity, and have continued to work on it at home in recent months,

It’s a new type of writing for me and one I’m really enjoying exploring. Have you tried a new hobby or activity during lockdown? Creative pursuits can give our mental health a real boost. When you focus on doing, making, or learning something it can distract your brain from endless speculation and catastrophising.

Next week I’ll be exploring the restorative results of reading and writing in an exclusive online ‘lunch and learn’ presentation for the business sponsors of Derbyshire Institute of Sport. I think it may be adapted into a blog post in the weeks ahead.