Opportunity, risk and uncertainty

Oct 30, 2019

One of our themes at Clifford Style is the opportunity offered by change, disruption, and uncertainty.

All leaders, directors, and managers run – to use a seagoing analogy – at ‘full power’ even in relatively stable times; this is the nature of the role.  Every day we sift our computerised ‘in-trays’, knowing we have not done all the plethora of things we should have; we have to prioritise.

Stability/steady state never truly exist in successful companies … new legislation, technology, competitors, economic down or up-turns, market changes and many more factors all demand that we look up and out. Not exclusively down and in.  From time to time, however, tectonic movements amplify the challenges we face.  One such – in Britain and more widely – is Brexit. 

Challenge it certainly is.


For companies faced with amplified challenges by the once-in-a-generation levels of uncertainty, opportunities will comes from the space which we give ourselves to:

  • think and act anew
  • to be more responsive more quickly than our competitors

Amongst many methods of leveraging opportunity are these:

  • Keep informed, and up to the minute, with developments.  Given the current level of uncertainty in the ultimate outcome of Brexit, this is difficult
  • Put aside some business ‘bandwidth’ to keep ahead (insofar as this is possible).  This means thinking clearly; refining options; and making plans i.e. preparing your company’s readiness
  • Look ‘up and out’ – this is not so easy when the ‘day job’ must still be done. It means redirection of resource, prioritising, and allowing for planning time
  • This is a matter of mindset, not just resource – stepping back mentally, scanning the horizon, and seeing the ‘bigger picture’ need not always be a ‘heavy’ activity.  The right answer may be the counter-intuitive one that emerges from seeing that bigger picture for the first time
  • Nonetheless it increases ‘load’

So where does opportunity come from

  • Wider market opportunities arising from free trade – 90% of the world’s growth is currently taking place outside the EU
  • Beating the competition to take advantage of market opportunities
  • Holding on to customers that other companies lose through their delays and missed deadlines
  • Being bang-up-to-date with the use of technology
  • Being agile and flexible in the face of intense pressure

So, what do businesses need to think about now?

  • Think laterally and ‘out of the box’.  What is staring us in the face?
  • Keep in close touch with supply chains; identify all the suppliers and customers.  Pool and share insights widely.  Look for potential opportunities in new trading environments and relationships
  • If not already done so, sign up to daily Government updates at https://www.gov.uk/  – look out for local briefing events
  • Keep networking as hard as you can; find out what others are thinking and doing; ask around
  • Keep things in perspective; remember competitors are facing the same uncertainties
  • And ruthlessly ‘carve out’ the bandwidth to look ‘up and out’ – it matters! 

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