Thrive during challenging times, Tyler Grange style

Wednesday, 26th October 2022

from the Creative, Digital & Media Committee

“Recessions are great for business” isn’t something you ever expect to hear.

But what if it was true? Our Director Jon Berry asked those attending a recent pro manchester event to explore this possibility.

He revealed how you can prepare for a recession and come out on top, based on what we’ve done and experienced at Tyler Grange. Here are his key lessons, which will help you feel more positive about your business’s future.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger

A difficult economic backdrop makes your business tougher and more nimble for years to come. This is especially true if you launch a business during a recession. You’re trying to make it when you can’t get financing; trying to get customers when there isn’t much demand.

You have to fight tooth and nail to make your company successful. In the process, you uncover powerful, highly creative strategies and tactics that give you the skills to pivot and survive no matter the challenge.

Take our word for it … emerging from a recession, our business went from four people to 15 while our turnover increased by 30%. We now have a team of 85 people with multiple office locations. But we’re continually revisiting our own structure and approach. Because getting complacent is not an option. Not with challenging financial times ahead.

“Action is the foundational key to all success”

Picasso is right on the money. The worst thing you can do before or during a recession is sit on your hands and hope for the best. Action and momentum are vital, and we recommend the OODA Loop model (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) as a decision-making framework.

It helps you filter information, put it into context and quickly make the most appropriate decision. And you know that you can make changes as new data becomes available. Developed by military strategist John Boyd, it’s all about speed and direction (i.e. being more proactive and innovative than your competitors). We harness the OODA Loop model at Tyler Grange but also take things a step further. Using the advice of Martin Murphy, a coach and former member of the UK special forces, we build in an emotional intelligence check, ensuring our decisions align with our team, community and our values.

Building a business based on solid values that everyone can get behind – puts you in a stronger position to pivot. It made a huge difference for us. Spending time uncovering and defining our values through workshops and feedback sessions provided a blueprint for consistency in decision-making. And it’s holding our team together, making it easier to get through challenging times.

Implementing strong values to tackle a challenging market

Caring. Belonging. Opportunity. Enjoyment. Honesty. These are the values Tyler Grange was built on over ten years ago. It’s helped us nurture an authentic, happy and innovative workforce – our no-so-secret ingredient for success.

Here are some of the initiatives we’ve had in place since the beginning (plus others we’ve developed more recently) to implement strong values into the business, as well as how they’ll help us weather the difficult periods ahead.

Be more than just a business 

Benefiting local communities – it’s our moral and social responsibility. From the outset, we offered our team one day a month (paid) to undertake voluntary work. We’ve supported hundreds of charitable organisations and formed some fantastic relationships. These close relationships with charities, such as Farms for City Children, have been immensely rewarding.

They’ve also resulted in numerous work opportunities that will bolster us during difficult financial times.

Prioritise health and wellbeing 

We take the mental health of our team seriously. We have an in-house psychologist, Dr Suzanne Brown, who supports our team on a monthly basis, running clinics in person and via Zoom. And everyone is eligible for free, qualified counselling. We’ve also enlisted the help of elite sports coaches to support us during periods of pressure, criticism, and stress. Plus, we run a mentors course where Tribe members can gain the skills needed to provide mentorship for their colleagues.

It all adds up to a happier, healthier Tribe. Reduced absenteeism, greater productivity, and higher levels of engagement will no doubt put us in a stronger position should we experience another recession.

Honest feedback and realising dreams 

Since the early days, we have recognised that taking criticism and praise from our team, clients and collaborators makes us better. It works both ways. But we don’t have appraisals or reviews at Tyler Grange. Rather, we ask our people to tell us what they really want — their dreams. Even if they have plans to leave the company, we want them to feel comfortable sharing how this ties into their happiness. And we want to know how we can help them along their journey.

Being authentic and asking for authenticity makes us more adaptable. As a team, it binds us together through trust. As a business, it helps build mighty relationships with our clients and partners.

Do something different 

We recently signed up to a 4-day week trial, with the entire business working 80% of the time for 100% pay. So far, it has seen reduced absenteeism and resulted in increased productivity. Should this become a permanent fixture, it will undoubtedly benefit us long term.

Alongside our 4-day week trial, our B-Corp certification is imminent. It shows we’re a business meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits to supply chain practices. And through access to the B Hive (a resource and networking hub for B Corps), it also opens us up to myriad work opportunities, discounts from other B Corps, and free team training to further strengthen our business. It will help us innovate, sharpen our competitive edge, and access new opportunities.

If possible, don’t cut marketing budgets. You probably see it as a non-essential expense. But the opposite can be true. With lower demand comes higher competition. There’s never a greater need to differentiate than during a recession.

Investing in marketing helps you analyse your position in your market and highlights opportunities for you to strengthen your reputation. When we engaged with marketing experts Mike Pye + Co in 2020, we realised how our values weren’t visible to prospective clients and employees. They helped us do a complete rebrand to fix this, and now people see us how we want to be seen. It helped us attract top talent, secure exciting clients, and collaborate with some amazing brands. We’ve never been in a stronger position and it makes us feel confident about the future.

You can also stand out of the crowd by investing in new services, products or processes, which will likely result in long-term pay-offs. Recessions always provide plenty of opportunities to innovate. Of course, a marketing expert can help you identify gaps in the market you can take advantage of. Marketing intelligence and innovation should go hand-in-hand.

Your plan of action

Now is the time to think about your next steps. Identify what your business needs to not only survive a potential recession but grow in spite of it. Focus on the things that will bring your team together, unlock new opportunities and strengthen your position in the market.