Established, Mentoring

In a crisis? First survive, then thrive

Unprecedented. It’s a word we’ve heard a lot. And with good reason. Before 2020 very few of us, if any, would have collectively suffered such a crisis – two crises in fact, health and economic – at the same time. Lynne Cadenhead looks at personal strategies for getting through – and past – a crisis.

“The COVID-19 crisis has caused all of us to worry to a lesser or greater extent about health, how to pay our bills, feed ourselves and keep a roof over our heads. Government support has been put in place. Some businesses are still concerned about whether it will be enough – businesses built over many years were put on hold and may be risking failure. For business owners it has been a time of worry, stress, loneliness, vulnerability.

But it gets better. I know from experience.

I went through the financial crisis of 2008, and whilst nothing compared to what we have experienced in 2020, it was brutal for my business. Terrifying and soul-crushingly brutal. My company that I had grown for four years from start-up was flying and by the middle of 2008 I had forward orders for Christmas for 50,000 units, and multiple listings for my games throughout the UK in major supermarkets and other well-known chains. I thought I could do no wrong!

Then things started to go wrong. Badly wrong. Almost overnight those orders went from 50,000 to ZERO. Pretty tough when you have paid upfront for manufacturing and 90% of your annual sales are in December – if you don’t sell then you won’t sell until the following Christmas (note to self, avoid products and companies with lumpy cashflow in future…).

I got through it though and told myself next year would be better. Things improved, I got a new deal with a TV game…and then that Christmas was also horrendous, with really bad weather that brought much of the country to a grinding halt, stock stuck in containers at ports, stock ruined by bad weather and no comeback. A second bad year piled on top of the first one…

Yet you keep going. Every day you come in and think “It will be better today”, and sometimes it’s not, it’s worse. You can feel lost, alone, stressed, vulnerable. You do everything you can and it feels like nothing works.

Then one day you turn the corner and things get better and you are on the up again. Every single successful entrepreneur I have spoken to has said the same thing to me over many years. The deepest and darkest moments in their business have, in hindsight, been their most valuable experiences. Crucial turning points which have taken their business onto success in ways they never would have previously dreamt of.

A crisis, in time, can be the same critical turning point for you too.

Here are some pointers from me to help you through a crisis.

  1. Right now, today, it’s ok to feel confused and worried. It’s ok to feel unmotivated. It’s ok to do nothing. It’s ok to pause. But not for too long. Take the time to process what has happened and what you may have lost, but you need to get going again pretty soon.
  2. Get into survival mode FAST. Do everything you can to protect your business in the immediate short term. Forensically analyse every single cost and cut where you can (and you can usually cut a lot more than you think you can) without compromising your core values. Only you know what is important to you. Stay true to your purpose and your values.
  3. Stop being such a perfectionist – it’s both a blessing and a curse for entrepreneurs! Do you really need a label at 10p when a 5p label would do the job just as well? Time to compromise.
  4. Look after your customers and suppliers, even although they can’t pay you or work with you, and your people. You will need them later when they are all ready to come back and they will remember that you cared for them.
  5. Repurpose whatever and wherever you can right now. How can you adapt, change, adapt and change your product and services right now?
  6. Ask for help. Most of the help you need is out there if you ask for it. Be honest about what you need. Don’t sugar-coat it.
  7. Now you need to thrive. The companies that will come through this crisis and flourish will be the ones that have embraced Dual Thinking – Survive and Thrive. Deal with the here and now but at the same time look ahead and plan for what the world will be like in a year’s time when we are emerging from this. It will be a very different place – how can you thrive in that new world?

Entrepreneurs are really good at dealing with uncertainty and making decisions in the absence of knowledge.  It’s time to bring these skills to the forefront in this uncertain world. Thrive and survive. This too shall pass, and when it does, you’ll be ready for it.”

A version of this article first appeared on


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Lynne Cadenhead
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