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Reflecting on previous difficult times and why optimism is my strength

Every year brings its challenges. But after particularly turbulent times, how is business shaping up? I share some positive insights.

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It's not quite the end of the year. But I'm already in a reflective mood. We're obviously going through an era of great turmoil and uncertainty. Costs are going up. There's doom and gloom everywhere. For anyone running a business, it can feel like a heavy weight to burden right now. However, all is not lost.

I'm an optimist. I always have been. I see the potential in any situation. Difficult times can bring great opportunities for many of us. It's about understanding the current mood and anticipating what might happen next. Of course, that's impossible to predict. But we can look at our past experiences to prepare for whatever comes our way.

When I launched my marketing firm over 15 years ago, I never anticipated that only two years later, I would lose all my clients overnight. It was the global economic crisis of 2008. The people I served were in the housing industry. As expected, they suffered greatly. As did I.

Finding myself in desperate times, I applied for jobs. I got an interview almost immediately in Abbots Bromley. It was a cold and frosty morning and a long drive from home. I'd been used to staying at my desk, freelancing for clients without leaving the comfort of my home office. The job interview went very well. The guy there asked me, "Why do you want to work for us if you've been successful at running your own business?" I gave a formulaic answer about wanting to be with others, but it was a question that stuck with me. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I accepted the position.

My first assignment was to meet the boss at 4.30 am the next day to then drive to London for an early morning meeting. This was going to be a twice-weekly occurrence. The night before, I realised I wasn't going to take the job after all but had no phone number to inform my new employer of my u-turn. So I had to get up at 3.30 am, in the cold and dark, and drive back to the office to inform them of my decision. There we were, the sun barely risen, my cold breath visible in the foggy mist surrounding us, and I told him my fate. "Well, there's nothing more to say, is there?" He said. And we departed.

I went home and back to bed. And then, later that day, I rolled my sleeves up and spent the next week or so creating a new brand and website with what skills and resources I had. Seeing the impact of the Internet on my entire profession, I decided to specialise in 'digital PR and marketing' – something no one else was offering. I called my new limited company, Boomerang – a weapon of communication, a premise that we'll "throw businesses out there with return on their investment". And then, I did a hefty course on SEO and social media – the outcome of which led to the creation of my first blog. When I was happy with my website and business cards, I put myself out there. I spoke to everyone. I pitched to other PR agencies. And then, realising I wasn't the only one suffering, I started a little side project called Creative Boom.

It took some time. I had to take a part-time job at another marketing agency to help pay the bills. But the new website for Boomerang and newfound SEO skills soon put me on the first page of Google for the term 'PR agency Cheshire' and later 'PR agency Manchester'. With 'digital' being a new demand, I got a heap of enquiries. And won a ton of new work. I left my part-time job. I didn't have to freelance for other agencies; I had my direct clients.

Over the years to follow, we grew as a team. Won business from brands as big as TATA, BBC and Manchester City Football Club. We ran Boomerang successfully on that theme for over a decade. On the side, Creative Boom also began to flourish. I was faced with a new dilemma. What do I focus on? The pandemic presented the answer: Creative Boom. My heart hadn't been in PR and marketing for many years, and I wanted a new adventure.

Boomerang, meanwhile, still exists today but specialises in software systems. It has the very same clients we won all those years ago, too. Like Creative Boom, it continues to evolve. This is business. We have to adapt not only to the world around us but listen to our guts and follow our hearts.

Mistakes are inevitably made. Difficult times unearth new problems. It's not easy. 2022 itself has been a challenge. And although 2023 isn't looking too rosy, I'm still hoping it will bring opportunities, just like difficult times before. After all, businesses are still functioning. People are still spending. Life (and work) goes on.

This isn't 2008, granted. But the lessons I learned back then continue to shape my attitude today. Now I'm thinking, how else can I improve my business? What other avenues can I explore? It's why I launched this personal website over a year ago. It's a safety net, another option, a path to something else. And it's the reason we're beginning a new website design for Creative Boom. It never stops. There's always something new to learn or fresh ways to pivot.

If you're reading this and feeling low about current circumstances, don't despair. We can often find ourselves driving in the dark, surrounded by misty cold fog or snow, with no clear path in sight – just as I felt on that fateful morning thirteen years ago. Whilst we can't control external forces, we can control our response. We have a choice. We can plot our own course. Our next adventure. We can rise above and not allow circumstances to hold us back or drag us down.

Having optimism in the face of adversity, and taking action – no matter how small, means there is always hope. That doesn't present all the answers to our problems, but it's a very good place to start.


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