As an American living in the UK, I went to bed the night of the US Presidential election confident that I would wake up to the first female US president.
Instead, my alarm clock found me shaking in my bed, trying to come to grips with how the unthinkable could have happened. Like so many others around the globe, I started last week hopeful that we’d finally be able to put some of this uncertainty of the last year behind us.
Instead, Donald Trump has been elected and the world at large is facing an unexpected and unpredictable future. The financial and currency markets are plummeting in response and all of us are left wondering what this will mean to us, especially as we’re all still trying to find our footing after the reaction to the Brexit vote.
The easy choice was to stay in bed, pull the covers up over my head and pretend it wasn’t happening. Unfortunately, lying in bed for two more years of Brexit uncertainty and four years of a Trump presidency isn’t an option for anyone. All of us, individuals and businesses alike, have to stand up and find a pathway forward.
Several days later, I’m sitting at my desk and wondering where to go from here, how to pick up the pieces and find a way to survive (and dare I say it, even thrive) in this uncertain world. In looking around the room, I realise that the answer is right in front of me. If there is any group who knows how to find a way forward despite the odds, it is the business world.
It’s normal to over-react at the start
My quiet sobs when I found out about the result certainly matched the immediate reaction of the financial markets. When major elections don’t end as expected, it is normal to have a meltdown and throw our toys out of the metaphorical pram. After all, no one really likes facing uncertainty.
Regardless of whether you are looking at your personal or professional life, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed for expressing fear or being upset; let your honest emotions out. Only once we’ve reached an emotional catharsis can we find a way to regroup and move forward.
Identify which challenges will hold you back
While a potential hard Brexit and a Trump presidency will certainly bring a wide range of change, it won’t all be relevant to us individually. We will each face our own setbacks and opportunities, and the critical thing is knowing how to separate one from the other.
In our recent survey of 500 UK SME decision makers, we found them to be doing just this. They highlighted their individual investment needs, ranging from hiring new staff and funding better training to developing new products. This helps them to be better prepared for what might be coming next.
Find your personal path to success
In uncertain times, success will look different for each of us. For some, simply surviving will be challenge enough. For others, uncertainty will offer the chance for gain. In the coming days, it will be up to each of us to determine where we will land.
Surprisingly, we found a majority of the small and medium sized businesses we surveyed post-Brexit feeling positive about their growth potential over the next two years.
At this moment, I think most of us could use a little of their optimism, because it isn’t blind or misplaced. When you dig into the rationale behind their responses, it is clear that it is not simply a case of looking at the world through a set of rose-coloured lenses. They have found ways to insulate themselves as much as possible from the negative aspects of the uncertainty, and to capitalise on the positive ones.
Today we can take time to yell at the world or to hide away and lick our wounds. Tomorrow will be soon enough to pick back up with our everyday lives. But we shouldn’t go into the day expecting it to be like any other. It will not be. We must approach the uncertainty with a business-like acumen, educating ourselves, evaluating all of the opportunities and finding a place to stand on the shifting sands.