By Sandy Kennedy

“At this time, leaders must be a thermostat not a thermometer, to set the tone and energy in the business”, says Tom McCallum, entrepreneur, GlobalScot and coach.

More than ever, we need brave, entrepreneurial leaders and teams in all parts of our economy. They set the context, the pace, the confidence for the future. The challenges they face vary dramatically; from coping with 10x rise in demand or, sadly for the majority, to coping with a cliff edge fall in customers – with only a few days warning and little idea what next week will bring.

For some, like Adrienne and Gordon MacAulay, the founders of ParsleyBox, demand has soared. Their online business was scaling fast as the providers of cupboard stored meals delivered to your door. Their challenges is how to satisfy a demand spike and not destroy their business in the long-term. Sounds easy, it is not. Last week they only to took orders from existing customers to sort out their production and delivery capacity. This week they are back on track.

Contrast Adrienne and Gordon with the multi award-winning Freda Newton of Jacobite Cruises. In 2002, Freda took the brave decision to buy a small Loch Ness boat tour business. Since then she has grown passenger and staff numbers by 10 times and invested millions of pounds in upgrading her fleet and building out new facilities – all to bring the magic of Loch Ness to a global audience. At 5pm on 20th March, Jacobite took the temporary measure to stop operating its tours due to plummeting customer numbers. Imagine the pressure on Freda and her team. It could not have come at a worse time. Knowing Freda, she will be back full power, stronger, braver than before.

This challenge is being faced by thousands of leaders right now. Desperate times for many. My thoughts are with you.

It is not just the private sector. Imagine being a public sector leader in health, education or economic development or in charities and not for profits like Entrepreneurial Scotland. We too have seen revenues plummet, yet we are standing beside the entrepreneurial community. In just two weeks we have scrambled a new online channel to share information, ideas, moral support amongst our community of 5,000 and created a new ES Momentum series including coaching, HR masterclasses and panel sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs.

The world has changed forever. For now, survival is enough. Shortly, we all will turn our minds to reinvention as “not dying” is not a long-term strategy. Purpose and understanding why what we do matters will define the future.

From all the conversations some tips and themes are emerging, I share a few:

1. Put your oxygen mask on first. Look after yourself both mentally and physically to be in best condition to play your vital role. Adrenaline alone will not get you through.

2. Have a clear short-term vision in mind and share it again and again with your team. Current and near future is enough.

3. No one does it alone. Seek counsel from your peers and those who are also going through it. Reach out beyond your usual circle, even to competitors.

4. It is a team game. Involve your teams in your future planning. Be resolute and show your vulnerability “I don’t have all the answers, but we will get there.”

5. Be hungry to learn. The world has changed: markets, customers, investors, talent needs, team values, repurposed products. Leaders need to source new ways to learn as they go.

As the philosopher, Eric Hoffer put it: “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists”.

Sandy Kennedy is chief executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland.