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1 Sep, 2020

I have, as many people who lead a business at the moment been thinking about what it takes to come through adversity. I realise there is not one feature, skill or approach but I do think there are some behaviours, qualities and good practices that will give us clues.  

Whilst,’ the past does not equal the future’ I do think there are some valuable lessons to learn from other seismic shifts across our history. If we look  back after the Spanish flu pandemic which killed over 50 million people worldwide  the 1920’s saw new inventions, the bulldozer, traffic lights,  the radio altimeter, the instant camera, headrests and the first convertible car to name a few.

In 1944 there were battles raging in the Atlantic and across Italy as well as the start of the assaults to dismantle the Siegfried Line and the famous Operation Overlord and the Allied invasion of Normandy.  And yet, in the midst of this, Winston Churchill and his government planned for economic recovery. They established The Council of Industrial Design now the Design Council. It’s the founding purpose to promote ‘by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry’ and support a positive economic future.  Over the next 20 years, British design and manufacturing began to make waves around the world from computer development, the world’s first commercial jet, high strength carbon fibre to desktop calculators and the lava lamp.

So it seems even during and after the most catastrophic events, humans are insightful, resourceful and forward-focused. Whilst many of us may be on our knees what are our economic recovery plans? What will the emerging business look like? What will stay the same and what’s the strategic opportunity?


There has been much talk of’ behavioural change’ as a result of coronavirus and probably more to come. As marketing professor Mark Ritson so eloquently demonstrates in his recent webinar (which I’d urge you to hunt down) this is likely to be very short-lived. He clearly shows, that even after events such as foot and mouth where people died, millions of cattle were slaughtered and beef sales plummeted just a few short years’ later beef sales not only recovered but increased.

Indeed, management consultants, Mc Kinsey have shown that change management is ‘notoriously difficult to carry out’ for many reasons. Ultimately it’s all about people moving from being persuaded, to wanting to change, to that change becoming habitual and as a result, creating a new culture. On a personal level I know it’s easy to decide to make a change but sustaining it so much harder. Every Monday I start a diet along with 46% of the rest of the population.  

So whilst right now we are dealing with dramatic tactical changes in our respective worlds and business  I am wary of thinking that this will herald a revolution in behaviour.  Our clients and staff may indeed want different things for a while, a ‘ new norm’ if you like as we work our way through the next phases but all the evidence shows that eventually the majority of behaviour returns back to where it was.

What does that mean?

Have a vision for the future of your product or service. What’s great about it? What do you want to keep? What needs to change? Can you innovate?

Hold true to your brand values. If you aren’t sure what they are, now is the perfect time to find clarity. As Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.” Be brave enough to ask yourself what would be missing if my brand didn’t exist?


Embrace the paradigm shift and see the world from your client’s perspective. There is no better time to implement solution selling and outstanding customer service. Show them, don’t just tell them. At The Graphic Design House, we have a 'handshake’ with each other and our clients #do one more thing.  Show people one more idea, one more option or push one more time to make the impossible possible. If you doubt this think of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in London built in nine days.

Focus on marketing.  I absolutely accept you need to look after people first, but when that’s done your successful recovery will need marketing. There are dozens of robust studies by eminent institutions and professors that clearly demonstrate that those companies and brands that continue to advertise and market themselves during and after these seismic changes benefit economically.


And what about design and creativity? Designers have a unique ability to turn the intangible into the tangible, to turn up the volume of everything that is distinctive about you and make you stand out. If you want to make those impressions count with your customers let them help you. It’s worth the investment, it’ll be faster and more surprising than you can imagine.

Finally great business will always be great irrespective of whether we are facing adversity. Put simply if it walks like a king and acts like a king it’s probably a king if it walks like a duck acts like a duck then it’s probably a duck.  I wish you the true meaning of Godspeed, that has a’ prosperous journey’. When it ends I hope we can all look safely back and share what we’ve learnt for those that follow.


If there is anything I or the team here can do to help you then please get in touch. 

1 Sep, 2020