2018 – A Year of Nothing to Fear but Fear itself ?

It’s hard to write about the business climate these days without straying into the politics of fear. It’s been a weird year. On both sides of the Atlantic, people voted in 2016 in response to cleverly constructed, factually questionable campaigns provoking a fear response. On both sides of the Atlantic, we’ve ended up with something far more scary as a result. Voting out of fear rarely leads to a good place, it seems. You vote out of fear. You get fear. Maybe there’s a lesson lurking?

Is the same true for those of us who lead businesses? Is it OK to act out of fear?

The answer seems to be “yes” and “no”. I’ve been working with a number of businesses this year, who have – rightly – been worried about the consequences of doing nothing in the face of a fast-changing world. So they have done something. Fast.

One was a food supply business that has changed its offer significantly, in the light of relatively sudden changes in consumer eating habits. Another is an IT services business that has acquired multiple other businesses to plug strategic gaps that matter more than they used to.  Another is a Professional Services firm that is having to think hard about what it offers, as technology and legislative change impacts on its clients’ business models.

So “yes”: it’s good to be worried about the price of doing nothing. It’s good to act wisely. And, if you decide to act, it’s usually good to act fast.

But fear is a dangerous task master:

This year, if I’d listened to my fears, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I’d have worried about a bunch of stuff that never happened. Brexit has not – yet – brought business-as-usual to a grinding halt. Business might have come grinding to said halt if we’d all agreed to be terrified, en masse. But people have been brave. People have taken the view that there is a way through this. Which is a good thing. It’s the opposite to voting out of fear.

So, hopefully, the opposite will apply: if you vote out of hope, you get hope.

Over to you. Hope or Fear?