DO you know which word was picked as the word of the year for 2022?
Yes, according to Collins Dictionary, permacrisis – a word describing the feeling of living through a period of war, inflation and political instability – was its word of the year.
That was highlighted by Louise Vaughan, one of the panellists at financial recruitment firm Headstar’s Annual Conference at Leeds Arena earlier this month.
And, if events so far this year are anything to go by, it has a pretty good chance of doing the double.
I suppose that’s the thing about a permacrisis – it’s around for a while and nobody can really correctly predict when it is going to end.
As James Roach of Headstar pointed out in an excellent blog on their website, six months on from when the annual conference was originally due to take place, the weather might have changed significantly (it was postponed from March 9 because of snow blizzards) but many of the challenges that businesses of all sizes face have, sadly, not.
James wrote: “While we might not be in a recession, many businesses are finding it tough. And that should come as no surprise. It has been this way for some time now. Cast your mind back over recent years and it’s hard to remember a time when there hasn’t been economic, political and social uncertainty – with businesses having to first weather the impact of Brexit, followed in short order by the Covid-19 pandemic, rising energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis.
“But for all the doom and gloom that exists, there are, thankfully, plenty of examples of businesses in Yorkshire and beyond that have thrived during these challenging times. Which begs the obvious questions: how have they done it and what can other businesses learn from their approach?”
What I enjoyed as the compere of the Headstar event is that the focus was very much on positivity and opportunity.
But that is probably to be expected when you bring together an entrepreneurial and high achieving panel of guests, an audience of engaged and energetic business people and a firm like Headstar as host which is all about people, values and delivering success and support for clients.
The title of the event at Leeds Arena’s Black and White Executive Lounge was Thriving in Tough Times.
Clare Boardman, the senior MD of CEO advisory firm Teneo; Darren Forshaw, co-founder and partner of private equity firm Endless LLP; Louise Vaughan, co-founder and chief client officer of Definition Group and Hayley Erner, business advisor and coach, were engaging and fascinating company.
They offered a multitude of brilliant insights into how leaders can ensure their business is best placed to succeed through these testing times.
One of these is to regularly stress-test your business, particularly given the uncertain times we are all operating in.
How long that goes on for is anyone’s guess, but it was interesting to see the audience nodding in agreement when panellist Darren Forshaw shared that he doesn’t believe we’ll see the stability we’re all looking for until after the next general election, which is likely to be towards the end of next year.
Having the right structure in place is critical to business success and Louise Vaughan from Definition Group, which helps its clients define, align and deliver their brands, highlighted how she and the team regularly review this to ensure they’re best placed to mitigate any potential threats and take advantage of new opportunities. The potential of AI to revolutionise the way that businesses operate and deliver services is huge, and Louise shared how, recognising the significant opportunity to their business and the partners they work with, Definition Group has put a dedicated person in place to explore how they can best harness this new technology.
Clare Boardman made the point that, with so much out of their control, business leaders should focus on what they can control and influence – chiefly, how well placed their business is to overcome potential challenges and take advantage of future opportunities.
Creating the right culture in a business is not just a nice-to-have, it’s critical to business success, impacting everything from employee satisfaction and productivity to attracting and retaining talent, innovation and long-term profitability.
Ensuring your people have the right mindset is a good place to start, according to Hayley Erner.
She saw many business leaders struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic and, two years on, many are still battling with the after-effects. Getting your head into the right space is half the battle – with Hayley citing the example of how top teams in the world of sport have been quick to recognise the benefits of investing in psychologists to ensure players are in the right frame of mind to succeed.
Too many business leaders are still reticent to seek support and help for themselves and their teams – but those that do quickly realise the benefits, she said.
Where people work from plays a significant role in shaping a company’s culture and while the panel very much supported flexible working, all noted the importance of employees physically coming together in an office environment on a regular basis.
Hayley flagged how teams can risk losing a sense of connectivity if there’s too much remote working, while both Darren and Louise noted how employees, junior colleagues in particular, often learn by osmosis from others around them – something they simply can’t do if they’re working remotely.
All the panel were keen to highlight how it is easy to become tunnel-visioned in difficult times and not notice what’s happening in your periphery, where there may well be opportunities.
Challenging times bring about adversity and difficulties, but they can also create openings for innovation, problem solving and professional growth.
Clare pointed out that there are opportunities in sectors, such as retail, which have suffered more than most in recent years.
She told the audience how, in this post-covid era, the once-prevalent 30-year lease on high street properties is all but dead but much shorter five-year leases are now becoming the norm, representing a significant shift in the commercial real estate market.
Consequently, many retailers who previously would never have considered having a high-street presence are being encouraged to have a go, breathing new life and energy into commercial centres across the UK.
It was interesting that last year’s Headstar conference was about the business of retail and one of the panellists then, Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, was in the audience for this year’s event.
Her business, a lighting and home decoration specialist, is thriving and she has since become a client of Headstar, using the firm to recruit finance staff.
That’s the thing about people in business, they can even deliver success in a permacrisis.
THERE was a real buzz in the room at the Headstar conference.
The socialising restrictions of the pandemic are now almost a distant memory but it has taken time for people to want to return in numbers to business events.
And, clearly some people are returning a little bit more slowly than others.
One member of the audience told me that the occasion was the first such business event she had been to since the pandemic.
I told her she should definitely get out more and asked what she did for a living.
She replied that she was a lawyer.
It’s difficult to know what to say, isn’t it?
But I’m already putting together plans for an outreach group for solicitors who don’t get out much.
FAREWELL then Mike Yarwood.
He wasn’t just an impressionist who seemed to have a thousand voices, but all the facial expressions, gestures and movements of his subjects as well.
I, like many, grew up watching him in the late 1970s and 1980s and even as a kid who didn’t know who some of his impressions were, still laughed at every one.
Of course there were the memorable routines like astronomer Patrick Moore singing Copacabana and the real former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey singing a duet with Mike Yarwood dressed as his imaginary sister Denise.
There is a great documentary about Mike Yarwood that was part of comedy producer John Fisher’s ‘Heroes of Comedy’ series which you can watch on YouTube.
In it, Denis Healey reveals that his ageing mother, who saw the sketch on television, said she couldn’t remember him having a sister.
And political journalist Simon Hoggart revealed that Yarwood’s impression of Healey succeeded in making a man who was a teak tough political operator a popular household figure who even adopted the catchphrase “silly billy” from the impressionist.
My favourite story from the documentary is one Yarwood tells.
Despite becoming famous for his impressions of Steptoe and Son, Frankie Howerd, Eddie Waring, Hughie Green and prime ministers Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson, he said that whenever he was in the company of people from the showbusiness world, the impression they always wanted him to do was Ken Dodd’s agent on the phone to America trying to explain what his client’s act was – including his diddy men and tickling stick.
There’s only one thing you can say to that.
Nikk nakky nik nok, nikky nakky noo.
Have a great weekend.
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