by Sandy Lindsay MBE, chair of Tangerine Group
Anyone who knows me will know I’m a complete geek for anything dystopian, fantastical or magical. Give me Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, 1984, and most especially Harry Potter and I’m happy.
I love the premise of good triumphing over evil; a plot where the good guys win and live happily ever after, while the bad guys die a deserved (and ideally dreadful) death.
The basic outline of these stories is that, there you are, plodding on with your safe and happy life, worrying about things like homework, looming exams, boy/girlfriends and along comes a dark wizard, trying to kill you and every one you know and you think to yourself: To think! I was worried about [insert trivial minutia you were previously worried about] – if only I’d realised what a great life I USED to have before [insert nature of evil thing trying to kill you…]
So there we were, worried about (to be fair, quite an evil business threat) – Brexit – and little did we know that, just around the corner, a far more pervasive, global and indiscriminate foe was headed our way.
Covid-19 has rocked our axis, shaken us by the very scruffs of our necks and delivered a hammer blow that none of us will ever fully recover from. It has changed our way of life in an astonishingly short period of time. Forced us into our homes, away from our friends and our families and already taken many good people and some good – and some not so good – businesses from us.
And yet, just as in my beloved good vs evil yarns, when someone or something threatens our way of life, our homes, our families and our livelihoods, something truly miraculous happens to us humans. We discover in ourselves a courage, a resilience and a determination to triumph over adversity.
When we think of the characters within Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, often the real heroes aren’t Harry himself or Frodo and Gandalf, but the quiet, overlooked guys such as Sam Wise Gamgee and Neville Longbottom, who never would’ve volunteered to take up arms but find the courage and the strength to wield the sword that delivers the final blow.
Thus we find the ‘key workers’ of CV-19 – the NHS teams, the care workers, the supermarket teams and the bus drivers. Within our own neighbourhoods, businesses, families and friendship groups, I’m sure we’ve all seen acts – large and small – of kindness, bravery and creativity we wouldn’t have expected.
On a business front, in the last four weeks, I’ve seen companies of all shapes and sizes pivot with impressive speed in order to find ways to survive and protect jobs. Just a few close to home: Northcoders and The Juice Academy switched to remote training – lickerty split – to keep their trainees moving forward, Student Nannies saw the opportunity to offer their ‘baby sitting’ students to (desperate) home schooling parents and Flock offered its culture analysing app free of charge to businesses wanting to check how their home working teams are feeling (now) about their employers.
I sit on quite a few boards as an exec and non-exec and I’m spending much of my time, like everyone else, taking part in Zoom/Teams/Hangout conference calls, brainstorming the next few weeks and months. And I find myself deeply impressed. Nothing is going to stop these organisations, large or small, new or established, commercial or charitable; least of all something for which they are completely blameless and over which they are completely powerless.
Only time will tell what our future will hold, but what will remain with me when I look back at this period in my life, will be the memory of how so many of us responded. The creativity, the humour, the resilience and – above all – the unexpected heroes who demonstrated, time and again, what we should truly value as a society.
Sandy was honoured in the Queen’s birthday list for services to business and young people and named the IoD’s NW Director of the Year (and Highly Commended in the same award, nationally).
She is non-exec director of the Rugby Football League, Northcoders and Flock, vice chair of the North West Business Leadership Team and Forever Manchester and a tech investor.