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Glad You Asked: How do I turn my small business into a resilient organisation?

November 19, 2018 / 3 min



Glad You Asked: How do I turn my small business into a resilient organisation?

November 19, 2018 / 3 min


The XYZed has scoured the internet for the most popular questions asked by self-starters – and now we’re answering them. Dr Richard Laferriere and Dr Rosemary Fisher are lecturers in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology. They spoke with us about how self-starters can instil resilience in their small businesses.

Starting a business can be thrilling, especially when your long-held dreams are becoming a reality. But there are variables at play – new personalities might be working together for the first time, work hits in waves and self-starters need a flexible attitude to thrive. Resilience sits at the core of a successful business culture.

Planting the seeds of resilience

It’s hardly a surprise that small businesses experience more turbulence than stable, established companies do. According to Dr Fisher, they face the potential of many complex threats to their survival. These include internal factors – obtaining new customers and the right employees – and external factors such as the competition.

Organisational resilience can help build “the capacity to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten the function of a system,” says Dr Fisher. “These can be human, environmental or organisational, and hiring resilient people is one way to build the resilience of the organisation.”

In a business, resilience can flow through the culture. Self-starters that maintain an infectiously-positive attitude influence the staff they hire, and help to instil a mindset that’s able to confidently navigate difficulties.

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Learning under pressure

Dr Fisher believes that classes or workshops can be a good way to shape your organisational outlook when resilience needs to grow.

“To build resilience in individuals you might look to activities that put them under pressure and have a deliberate learning outcome,” she says.

This might mean working with a facilitator who allows employees to explore their ability to handle a given scenario, reflect on what they learn and identify areas they can improve.

Some organisations have gone so far as to introduce resilience programs that put individuals into deliberately stressful and challenging environments. The often feature activities like rock climbing or canoeing, and even days where normal quantities of food are reduced for participants.

These kind of programs can be controversial and are not for everyone – but the aim is to create a successful, rewarding experience out of a threatening one, building up the individual’s capacity to successfully adapt to or recover from future difficulties.

To build resilience in individuals you might look to activities that put them under pressure and have a deliberate learning outcome.

Why an agile mindset matters

One of the key skills and methodologies that self-starters can learn from the world of start-ups is applying lean principles,” Dr Laferriere says. And he believes small businesses are nimble enough to “build, measure and learn” with agility.  

“They can capture opportunities because they move faster – identifying a market need, a niche customer base, a better way to deliver the service or a new revenue stream – all of these are a result of being able to act and adjust quickly.”

Bouncing back better than before

Self-starters often fail before they make it. So how do we come back from defeat? Successful entrepreneurs reframe professional misfortune.

“The term ‘failure’ is an emotive and often incorrect label for what actually is a prudent, robust decision to close a venture,” Dr Laferriere points out. In short, there’s a time to fight and a time to let go. Those who can embrace their resilience will identify the right move without agonising over it.

“The ability to adapt is a big part of what makes the founders so important to a business. They have a lot of strength, learn from failures and can change to fit the realities of the market they are facing,” Dr Laferriere says.

He believes that the willingness to try again comes from a founder’s belief in the opportunity they’ve created, and by backing anyone that joins them for the ride.


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