Life after Trump: A survival guide in times of uncertainty

Written by
Tom Ritchie

20 Jan 2017

20 Jan 2017 • by Tom Ritchie

Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States. Yes really. The collective fever dream that is 2016 is the (mostly terrible) gift that keeps giving. What with the death of countless beloved celebrities, Brexit, Leicester City winning the Premier League, it’s amazing there hasn’t been further stress put on the NHS by people entering critical condition following an 11-month long period of pinching themselves. 

In perhaps the most shocking election result in the country’s history, the property tycoon swept to an Electoral College victory, accruing the 270 seats needed to take the Presidency at around 7:30am GMT on Wednesday morning. At the time of writing, it appears that Hillary Clinton has amassed a greater number of votes, which makes the whole thing seem even more confusing than it already was. 

Since Clinton conceded, the financial markets have been fluctuating, the dollar is falling in value and uncertainty is rife. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? 

So how do we move forward? As an American living in the UK, Lynn Morrison, head of business engagement at Opus Energy, felt that Wednesday morning dread more intensely than most of us. And while she was upset at the news, she feels her emotional reaction was normal, “My quiet sobs this morning certainly matched the immediate reaction of the financial markets. When major elections don’t end as expected, it is normal to have a meltdown and throw our toys out of the metaphorical pram. After all, no one really likes facing uncertainty. 

“Regardless of whether you are looking at your personal or professional life, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed for expressing fear or being upset; let your honest emotions out. Only once we’ve reached an emotional catharsis can we find a way to regroup and move forward.” 

With doom and gloom the prevailing emotion hanging over business in the Western World, it can be easy to fall into a fear-induced stasis. A litany of potential pitfalls are on the horizon, and while they may seem equally treacherous, the key is establishing which of the challenges are the ones most pertinent to your business, “While a potential hard Brexit and a Trump presidency will certainly bring a wide range of change, it won’t all be relevant to us individually”, Morrison says. 

“We will each face our own setbacks and opportunities, and the critical thing is knowing how to separate one from the other. In our recent survey of 500 UK SME decision makers, we found them to be doing just this. They highlighted their individual investment needs, ranging from hiring new staff and funding better training to developing new products. This helps them to be better prepared for what might be coming next.”

Once these challenges have been identified, it’s important to clearly define what success in an uncertain time means to your business. If this means consolidation, then so be it. Morrison has seen some optimism in UK businesses over the past couple of months, and there’s no reason that Trump’s victory has to reduce this optimism, “Surprisingly, we found a majority of the small and medium sized businesses we surveyed post-Brexit feeling positive about their growth potential over the next two years. At this moment, I think most of us could use a little of their optimism, because it isn’t blind or misplaced.

“When you dig into the rationale behind their responses, it is clear that it is not simply a case of looking at the world through a set of rose-coloured lenses. They have found ways to insulate themselves as much as possible from the negative aspects of the uncertainty, and to capitalise on the positive ones.”

Often when there are political shifts such as Brexit or Trump’s victory, there’s a wave of an emotion that somewhat feels like grief. And while we must traverse those emotions of denial, anger, bargaining and depression, businesses have to be more outward thinking, and get to acceptance a whole lot quicker.

Morrison concludes, “We can take time to yell at the world or to hide away and lick our wounds. We will soon pick ourselves back up with our everyday lives. But we shouldn’t go into the next few days expecting them to be like any others. They won’t be. We must approach the uncertainty with a business-like acumen, educating ourselves, evaluating all of the opportunities and finding a place to stand on the shifting sands.”