I don’t know about you, but for me, the start of the year is a period of opportunity, a time where I like to reflect on what’s gone before and get ready for what’s ahead.  So, although I’m celebrating the noticeably longer days, I consider myself extremely lucky, because I’m not someone who has a burning desire to spend even the darkest winter months under the duvet – literally or metaphorically.

Lots of business owners find the start of the year a tough month.  A time when they’ve seen the clock turn back to zero after their 31st December year end.  A time when the year ahead’s targets loom over them and can seem as daunting as Everest summit.  I get that.  For us at Inspirent, our year end is 31st of March, so I (thankfully) don’t get this empty tank feeling in the first part of the year.  I’m grateful for that.

What’s more, in this first part of 2023, from the conversations I’m having (and there are plenty) I get the distinct feeling that the hangover from COVID is finally starting to lift.  And, despite all the social, economic, political, and global challenges that we’re only too aware of, there are still great stories of businesses – big and small – surviving and thriving their way into 2023.  And for that I’m extremely grateful.


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The digital antidote.

Looking back to last year at this time, the spectre of COVID was still hanging over the business community – but shimmers of light were starting to shine through the dark clouds.  We were starting to see that there were definitely opportunities to be had. And in my view, those best placed to harness the opportunities open to them were those who had already begun their digital transformation.  Those business owners who’d already seen the digital light weren’t just open to change; they were ready for it, and actively seeking it, despite the obvious challenges and deep discomfort digital transformation can bring.

It was last year at this time that the use of data as a source for intelligent decision-making; concrete evidencing of trends; the route to powerful insight into future demand and the “thing” at the backbone of the development of successful strategies, really came into the forefront of my thinking.  Am I a late adopter?

What I do know is that my intelligent self had always known that data was key.  But somehow, in January 2022 I could suddenly see it more clearly than I ever had, and then I couldn’t unsee it.  Does that make sense?  I guess it was last year at this time that I had my real digital “lightbulb” moment. Have you had your digital lightbulb moment yet?  Or were you way ahead of me and getting comfy with all things digital way before COVID?  I’d love to hear.

The colaboratory antidote.

The other thing that became clear to me last year was how much we’d suffered from isolation. Humans are pack animals.  There’s no getting away from that.  Our make-up wasn’t designed for us to live in splendid (or, in most cases, far from splendid) isolation.  Yet in business we so often find ourselves doing just that.  Fear of competition (someone nicking our idea), being rumbled (ubiquitous impostor syndrome), lack of confidence, fear – whatever the reason, when the going gets tough in business we often hunker down, lick our wounds and hide.  In my experience this is rarely, IF EVER the right thing to do.

As I see it, collaboration with key stakeholders is never a threat.  Quite the opposite in fact – for me, it’s the synergy of working together that typically helps everyone involved elevate their business/sector/region/self. Developing key partnerships isn’t just necessary – it’s smart and (mostly) fun.

The self-care antidote.

When it comes to self-care in business, investing in yourself as a leader isn’t ever indulgent, it’s essential – the key is making sure you get it right.  This is where you need to do the painful stuff to identify your true needs.  Have the hard conversations with yourself.  Speak to trusted others, look deep within, and don’t procrastinate.  Take stock and plan. It’ll cost you in the long run if you don’t.

Being present.

And last, but not least, my mantra for this year is this – be present.  Don’t just half listen, nodding at the right time (yes, I was guilty of this when busy), really listen! I remind myself that when someone else is speaking, I have an opportunity to learn from them. Develop future strategy yes, but don’t forget to be very present in the right here and right now – with yourself and especially with your team.  Be kind to yourself.  Be a visible and available leader. Acknowledge your people’s contributions.  Listen with all your might and give praise at the time. Don’t wait.


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