‘The whole team is responsible’

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Business advisor Brenda Williamson draws on her skills as a rally co-driver to help businesses address challenges faced in a Covid-19 landscape.

As a co-driver for a national rally team, Brenda Williamson knows first-hand what it feels like to be teetering on the edge of a cliff. “In rallying, things can be going well, then something happens and you have huge challenges. It takes a clear head and a well-tuned strategy to get out of trouble. “

She sees many similarities in running a business. “Running a business can be daunting and overwhelming. The business may be going well, then an event like Covid-19 happens, which creates huge challenges.”

But, while an event itself can seem overwhelming, the work that has gone before can mitigate the impact, she says. “It starts way back with planning, learning to manage stress and having a team philosophy. In rallying, there may be only two people in the car, but the whole team is responsible for getting a great result. In business, that team includes staff and external stakeholders such as advisors, clients, creditors, bankers, landlords and suppliers. In times of stress, it is essential to communicate effectively with everyone and tap into their ideas and expertise.”

A chartered accountant with “minimal interest in tax, but a passion for business”, Williamson has established a reputation in the Waikato as a perceptive and innovative advisor to businesses that want to achieve excellence in their field.

She has also held senior management roles over 12 years, which means she is well-placed to see business from all points of view. In June, her practice, Brenda Williamson and Associates, became a registered service provider with the Regional Business Partner Network (https://covid19.nzte.govt.nz/page/
regional-business-partner-network) which has received additional funding from Government to support businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Williamson says she brings a holistic approach to her role, drawing on her knowledge of the widespread effects of the pandemic on businesses generally and the resources available, plus the specific challenges faced by individual businesses.

“Every single client is different. I begin with a blank page and focus on the most urgent issues, which includes stress. Stress affects people in many ways and uses up a lot of energy. Directing energy into being proactive is helpful.”

Her focus as a business advisor is always on improved performance and opportunities to achieve excellence and a competitive edge. Post-Covid, when many businesses are struggling, it will also be on the impacts of the pandemic and strategies to survive and operate effectively and optimally in the new business landscape. This includes identifying critical issues and rectifying them in a timely manner; developing a plan to “get back on the road again” and adapting the business to take on challenges and opportunities.

“Again, there are analogies with rallying. In a race, some things go terribly wrong. You have to work out ways to get home. It’s the same when a business has been dealt a blow over which they may have had no control.”

Leadership is vital during times of stress. “Some business leaders will feel guilty they are not able to protect jobs; some will feel sorry for themselves and pass that on to staff and customers. But, as leaders of the business, they have to energise their teams and lead from the top with clear messaging. They also need to identify the areas where they need to ask for help. When people are confident in one area, they tend to focus on that and let slide areas where they have a weakness. They may feel they have failed the business. Talking to advisors can help focus on the issues that need to be addressed and build a plan for the future.”

As a rally co-driver, she says, you learn to never give up.             

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