In this country’s history there have been major events that each left their individual marks. I am sure you will agree that The Battle of Britain was one of them. However, you may well ask what that crucial Battle has got to do with business in 2018.
The scene - the Supermarine Works at Woolston, Southampton – Thursday 26 September 1940. Another raid takes place, devastating much of the town. German bombers target and badly damage the Works, immediately halting Spitfire production.
However, within 6 weeks, full-scale production had recommenced. Lord Beaverbrook’s plan actioned by the teams at Supermarine, and across local businesses, including garages and small industrial units, had worked. These so-called Shadow Factories weren’t dreamt up overnight. They had been carefully considered and formed part of an initiative to disperse critical manufacturing operations to alternative, and sometimes, remote locations.
Today, we would call this contingency planning. Back then in 1940, it was a remarkable, revolutionary concept. Now, it is accepted as one of the key principles used in business. The key question to ask – Do you have your own contingency plan in place, here today?
As economic indicators and business trends continue to show moderate improvement, there is a strong tendency of focussing on the Now, rather than looking towards the Future. That’s understandable with pressing deadlines, projects and contracts to successfully complete; and, the day-to-day pressures of running a business. However, short-termism can bring with it other major challenges. Some of these can be life-threatening to any business, if they occur without warning.
It’s in this context that contingency planning should be centre-stage in your business. At Yee Group, we take this extremely seriously and make time to consider different scenarios that could occur. It is all about preparation; and, not being taken by surprise. I believe that being caught out by a major event is simply not good enough in the 21st century.
Whatever, the size of your business, it is critical to have a full understanding and appreciation of what might happen in the most unlikely set of circumstances; and, then to plan accordingly. Some mistakes are glaringly obvious after the event. Wouldn’t it have been far better to consider and evaluate them prior to their occurrence?
There is another equally poignant side to the events that took place in Southampton in 1940.
On top of the 35 back-street businesses that took on special roles in the production of the Spitfires, the local community completely transformed itself. Under enormous pressure, the populace rallied around supporting and nurturing small businesses. Indeed, their war efforts were over-whelming; and, critically, ultimately successful.
I personally see close parallels with the current activities of our many and varied business, charity and support groups in Burton and District. These growing communities in the Town continue to play vital roles, where and whenever they are needed.
One of the new breed of fundraisers recently reminded me, ‘Our work is never completely done. There is always more to do; and, new challenges to face. We solve one problem; and another immediately springs up. But, we are getting on top of important issues.
‘With the support of local businesses and our community, we are making big inroads. We have to wholeheartedly thank all those you contribute in a myriad of different ways’.
Our community has continuously shown that it has the skills, enterprise and dedication to maintain and expand its fundraising and charitable support. The grapevines are already humming with early news of major events that are being planned this year.
Self-help is still very much alive and kicking. Your town and its business community are playing key roles in supporting, encouraging, and successfully achieving significant goals for our varied communities. Long may it continue.
I welcome feedback and comment on this column and the work and activities of the Chamber. You can contact me at [email protected]
President of Burton and District Chamber of Commerce
Managing Director, Yee Group Limited