By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
I was thrilled to watch Virgin Galactic’s first commercial spaceflight launch recently from Spaceport America in New Mexico, testament to the resilience of company founder Sir Richard Branson.
The long-awaited mission finally happened after the flamboyant entrepreneur’s venture into space tourism suffered setback after setback—most significantly and tragically when an experimental test vehicle suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup and crashed killing the co-pilot.
Undeterred, Sir Richard forged ahead and proved triumphant. It was by no means the first time he’d overcome major business challenges. In the early 1980s, he won a tough legal battle against British Airways which sought to block his upstart Virgin Atlantic airline. In the early 1990s, he bounced back after financial difficulties forced the sale of Virgin Records. And when the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted the travel industry he kept his airline afloat by not only securing financial support but also offering his private Caribbean island as collateral to save jobs.
Idyllic Necker Island has produced its own challenges. In 2011, the main house on the island burned down in a blaze believed to be caused by a lightning strike. Sir Richard rebuilt. In 2017, Hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, destroyed most of the island. Again, he rebuilt.
Sir Richard has often talked about resilience saying, “Resilience is like a callus on a palm. None of us are born with it—it takes hard work and sacrifice to build.” And also, “Success comes from having the resilience to pull yourself up, reboot your resolve, turn failure into opportunity, and give it another go.”
His words and, more importantly, his actions are true examples of how resilience can turn challenges and disruptions into opportunities. Today, more than ever, companies have to be resilient to secure lasting success in a highly competitive and fast-changing environment.
Not many companies, however, have achieved that state or instilled it in their workplace culture. A large-scale survey conducted by the ADP Research Institute found that only 14% of workers were fully engaged and only 15% were highly resilient. However, an important takeaway from their study was that those workers who had complete trust in their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders were 42 times more likely to be highly resilient.
Marcus Buckingham, New York Times bestselling author and head of ADP, says, “People don’t fear change as much as they fear the unknown, so employees need clarity and specificity from leaders, not sugarcoated enthusiasm. People function best in teams, so anything leaders do to help them feel part of a small high-performing team…will boost workers’ engagement and resilience.”
It’s worth it. McKinsey research has shown that the competitive advantage of resilience generates anywhere from 20% to 120% more total shareholder return (TSR) depending on the timeframe and economic climate. McKinsey also found that top performing businesses with healthy, resilient behaviors are more than 40% less likely to go bankrupt than poorest performing companies.
Historically, giant companies like Coca-Cola, IBM, Amazon, and Apple have displayed different kinds of resiliency through understanding consumer trends and adapting products accordingly. Coca-Cola introduced low-sugar and no-sugar beverages and added bottled water, teas, and juices to its portfolio. IBM has reinvented itself many times and transitioned from selling hardware to software and services. Amazon, of course, started life as an online bookseller—and look at it now. Apple has moved from primarily being a computer company to a leader in mobile phones. And it recently unveiled its entry into virtual reality—the Apple Vision Pro, a $3,500 device that looks like futuristic ski goggles.
Also in the news right now is the plethora of companies exhibiting resilience with the introduction of generative AI, something that will rapidly revolutionize products and services. There’s a hectic scramble to be winners in this race and not left behind.
So, as we have seen, adaptability and innovation are key aspects of a resilient company. Here are some others.
Company leaders need to strategize and plan for any threats to their business. They need to brainstorm potential calamities and put proactive measures in place, which includes diversification to minimize the impact of disruptions.
Resilient companies embrace a culture of learning, actively keeping their employes up to speed with state-of-the-art technology and business strategies. In doing so they motivate their workers by helping to sharpen their skills.
Resilience in business incorporates long-term sustainability factors including social responsibility, ethical practices, and environmental impact.
Resilience requires the establishment of a robust infrastructure which means secure IT systems, reliable supply chains, effective financial management, and clear, well-thought-out operational procedures.
When the going gets tough you need strong relationships and effective communication with all stakeholders that have the company’s best interests at heart—employees, customers, suppliers, and investors. Their support is crucial in times of adversity.
If you’re not a resilient company the future looks bleak. For a brighter future, you need to be prepared to quickly turn on a dime and effectively handle any unexpected crisis. By planning ahead, being flexible and innovative you can set your company up for long-term success while building a healthy workplace culture.