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How to Create a Resilient Business

Whether you are about to start a new business or running an established one, whether you are looking to expand your business or consolidate or even deal with some contraction, whether your business is micro, small, medium or large, whether you hire 100 people or none, at some stage you will want to ensure that your business is resilient.

Resilient from what?

You know, it almost doesn’t matter.

You might want to create a resilience in your business that will shelter you from national or international economic woes; you might want your business to be resilient against loss of key personnel; you might simply want your business to carry on undiminished forever.

Many entrepreneurs start a business by investing themselves, along with their money, into the business because their business is an extension of themselves – and do you not want to be resilient yourself? More than skills, experience or training, a person’s level of resilience will determine if they fail or succeed. Intuitively you know this is true whether you are playing a sport or building a business empire.

In this two part series of articles I will deal with how to create a resilient business. This first part is on identifying the characteristics of a resilient organisation. Part two will be about creating a cultural climate for organisational resilience.

So before we start to create the climate in which your business can become resilient, let’s first identify the characteristics of a resilient organisation.

Organisational culture and behaviour rests on the prevailing climate that exists in the firm. This climate can encourage resilience to appear in an organisation, or it can in fact encourage a set of circumstances where the organisation breaks at the first sign of crisis.

A summary of the prevailing attitudes that encourage resilience (or lack of) is in the following table:-

Non-resilient Attitudes Resilient Attitudes
•       Oblivious to the views of customers and stakeholders

•       Culture of looking for self-aggrandizing success

•       Considering oneself “invincible”

•       Ability to face down reality

•       Ability to see meaning and impose core values

•       Innovation built into the processes


Resilient businesses see reality for what it is. They do not “play down” the effects of setbacks. Instead a resilient organisation “faces down” reality by accepting it for what it is, and then finding ways to overcome what is happening.

Non-resilient companies tend to ignore reality, play it down or pretend that life goes on unchanged. Psychologically we know that people enter a phase of denial as a coping mechanism.

History is littered with great businesses that did not face down reality and failed. They tried to keep doing the same thing while the technological, customer need, and economic circumstances around them changed. Their management refused to see what was happening and attempted to invest more in the same product, pretending to themselves that they were established and could ride the changing trends.

On a human level, it has been found that American prisoners who didn’t make it out of Vietcong prison camps were mostly the optimistic ones. They were the ones who said to themselves that they’d be out by Christmas, only to see another Christmas go by, and another, until they were emotionally defeated. The ones who did make it out realised the horror for what it was and reset their mental space to accept reality, and fight back.

Resilient organisations ask themselves: “Does the company truly understand the reality of this situation and the negative impacts it will have unless we face it and think of something different?”

The ability to see reality for what it is, is linked to the second characteristic of resilience – the ability to make a meaning of what is happening.

Every entrepreneur should read Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. An Auschwitz survivor he described the key moment when he realised that in order to survive he needed to find a purpose for his life. He created a vision of him telling others about what happened in those camps, so that it could never happen again.

People who surrender under stress and cry “why me” see themselves as victims without a purpose. Hardship and setback carry no meaning for them.

Resilient people create a purpose so that they can resist and fight back in order to fulfil their purpose.

Hence a resilient organisation has a strong corporate vision and purpose that is known and understood by everyone who works there. With this string and enunciated vision, the organisation directs itself and provides all effort towards fulfilling that vision, and push through despite obstacles.

The third characteristic of resilient organisations is the ability to innovate with whatever is available, and the building in of this ability and attitude into existing processes.

Resilient organisations know that innovation is not just something a management group think about – it is a core skill of everyone who works there. People who work for resilient organisations are empowered to innovate in small ways every day, or in big strategic initiatives. The point is, they get it done.

Several years ago, there were a series of ads on television that showed a lesser courier company truck following a UPS truck – because they knew the UPS truck would find a way through. Their drivers were empowered to do whatever it takes to deliver on time and if they had to improvise they didn’t ask for permission, they just did it to get the delivery done.

So, ask yourself if your business displays the three characteristics of resilience. Do you:-

  • Face down reality?
  • Have a strong purpose?
  • Empower innovation?

Finally, like almost everything else, excellence is led, it doesn’t just happen. Leaders create, encourage and instil the right values in an organisation.

So the fourth characteristic is – are you leading your business into resilience?

Next week, I’ll write Part 2 on how to create a resilient business, which is about creating a resilient climate within your business.

In the meantime, go to https://teikoh.com to the Free Downloads, and download the questionnaire on “How Resilient is Your Organisation?” that comes complete with tips on the next steps to take after the questionnaire.

The website is full of these tools and resources to grow your business, so to ensure you don’t miss Part 2, other tips, or these valuable resources, enter your name and email at the website and I’ll make sure value is delivered right to your inbox.

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