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The Best Businesses Can Come Through Tough Times

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". In his novel, A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens might well have been referring to the different patterns of life around Covid.

But history has shown us that even in tough economic times people and businesses can prosper.

"The key words that are so important for everyone to remember right now are opportunity, adaption and resilience," says Richie Harkham - an entrepreneur and philanthropist who co-owns several businesses including Energy Alliance, The Australian College of Physical Education and Harkham Wines.

He’s experienced shocking times including nearly dying in a motorbike accident. However he became one of the first in the world to receive a live knee transplant from a young donor. It inspired him to give back in a significant way. Richie founded the charity Hark Angel, which has now built 9 schools (out of its mission to build 100 schools in total), already changing the lives of over 2000 children in developing nations.

"I learnt that you have an opportunity to truly grow when you have a major struggle. Because of this I have developed a 4-step process to overcome and find these opportunities," he says. “It’s called Banking Resilience and I’m currently writing a book about it, as well as giving key note speeches to companies around the world about it, including Google last week.

"In my experience the people who are going to do the best in business are those who are not afraid and can remain calm, see opportunities and take risks. When many are retreating because of a pandemic, a recession or volatility, people who are going to thrive are the ones who are not afraid to forge ahead. In my experience, it’s in the toughest of times that we will find the biggest opportunities."

In Australia’s battle-worn publishing industry, which has seen many book stores shuttered during Covid, many people were surprised but thrilled at the September’ announcement of a new publishing company.

Former Harper Collins chief executive James Kellow, who left the publishing giant in March, has teamed up with Sandy Grant, boss of Melbourne's Hardie Grant, to set up Ultimo Press, which aims to publish 60 fiction and non-fiction titles a year and hire up to 15 people. Ultimo hopes to release its first book next year.

"The world is a strange place just now, but we've undoubtedly seen books occupy more time and space with readers," says Kellow. "Whether that’s because folk want to escape, or to understand and be better informed, it's hard to say. What it clearly shows though is the value of the book. We want to come out of this period with fresh commitments, and an undertaking to provide a platform for new voices, diverse perspectives and original ideas."

Former My Kitchen Rules semi-finalist, prolific health book author, personal trainer and health coach, Scott Gooding thought he had an original idea when he opened his healthy food restaurant, The Good Place in Buddina, Queensland.

“Unfortunately we were hit weeks later with an enforced closure due to Covid. But after careful consideration we decided to create The Good Feed - ready meals that embody my nutrition & ethical ethos, available to homes right across Australia."

Gooding has his own rules for tough times.

"The best advice is to be nimble and adaptive to hurdles and challenges. Also accept that the final version of the product is rarely how you how it started as it’s an organic, evolving process."

Meanwhile proving that good things can grow from adversity, recently The New York Times published the story of Mexico City’s Cuarentena Baking, or Quarantine Baking, which was started by two artists with a (US) $42 toaster oven bought on credit.

Their donuts and cakes were showcased on the Instagram account they set up and they soon amassed hundreds of clients. This allowed them to move into a bigger apartment with a proper oven.

Perhaps then, it really takes having a goal in mind along with some resilience and a little luck to see you through the best of times and the worst.


Ros Reines is a Sydney journalist and the author of four books. She is currently penning her fifth - a memoir of a life in the med


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