Ruth Kudzi on How To Bounce Back Stronger in Business
Ruth Kudzi of Optimus Coach Academy and Ruth Kudzi Coaching knows what it takes to face challenges in business and bounce back stronger. They took some time out to share their insights with The Industry Leaders.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur, focusing particularly on your experiences with setbacks and challenges? How has this shaped your understanding and mastery of resilience in business?
I set up my first business in 2016 with two young children: it was my first online business so there were a lot of challenges in terms of understanding digital marketing and balancing time around my family.
My biggest challenges have come with the growth of my business specifically my training business : in our second year we nearly 10x our revenue : I hired quickly and we didn't spend enough time scoping up job specifications plus we paid at way above industry rates. The business was run on trust and it turned out that many of the team weren't working their correct hours and there weren't clear processes and communication in place to support this.
It took about a year to get back on track : we took a huge hit financially however with the hard work of me and the core team we were able to continue to provide an excellent level of customer service.
There are so many lessons in what happened, how I showed up as a business owner and my own resilience as a result which I can share.
In the world of entrepreneurship, failure is often seen as a stepping stone rather than a dead-end. How do you perceive failure, and can you share an instance where a failure led to an unexpected growth or success in your business?
I see it as a stepping stone: I now recognise that the biggest lessons happen at the hardest times. For example, we had attempted to take our marketing team in house and we had a huge dip in results: it felt like a failure in some ways going back to old suppliers however what we found is that the results were better and that we could strip back a lot of the complexity and spend. Now we work with a small agency and do most things in house with a much stripped back team and get much better results : the big team route didn't work for us.
What strategies have you employed to cultivate a culture of resilience within your organization? How have these strategies made your team more adaptable and innovative, especially during trying times?
We have developed a culture where people are open about mistakes and share them as well as fostering working practices where we check in with each other and we give people flexibility to complete their role in a way that works for them. We actively want our employees to be happy and secure at work and we support them to create job roles that suit their preferences.
You've spoken about bouncing back from failure, but I'm curious to know if there is a methodology you follow to analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Could you describe your process for assessing and learning from mistakes?
Yes, it's about taking a step back and evaluating: what was the catalyst and how did this lead to the behaviours? for example when we took on the wrong team members the catalyst was feeling like I couldn't cope in terms of workload: I acted too implusively rather than looking at creating a job description and person specification and having a detailed interview process. I knew what to do in terms of recruitment as it was my background but as I was under stress I was thinking more with my heart rather than my head.
You always have to be compassionate with yourself when you evaluate as as business owners it's often our decision making which has been at fault: we are always learning and developing this skill as well.
Many entrepreneurs fear failure to the point that it paralyzes them. How do you balance taking calculated risks with the fear of failure? What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who struggle with this?
I recognise the bigger picture: I studied Business and Management at university and am a qualified teacher in Business so know that profit is the reward to entrepreneurs for risk.
For me, I'm naturally someone who takes risks : I'm conscious that the biggest risks are financial : I often go to the worst case scenerio and look at this : what would happen if it didn't work out?
We need to really consider the data and do what is best for us in our businesses.
Sometimes, resilience requires knowing when to pivot or even walk away from an idea. How do you recognize the difference between a challenge that requires persistence and a situation that necessitates a change in direction?
Yes : I think you often know as a gut feeling. Sometimes when things feel really hard you can ask yourself if it's worth it: if you can't see the light or something really isn't working I often take a step back. It's about giving time for things to work without getting stuck with something due to the sunk costs you've invested.
The global economic landscape is always changing, and recent years have seen some extraordinary disruptions. How have you adapted your business to overcome unexpected global challenges? What were the key factors in your successful navigation of these waters?
Yes : I run online businesses so these are less affected than others. Equally, as we're online we can work with people globally : this is significant as it means we balance our risk more. Equally, we have introduced products at different price levels and diversified into more work with organisations again to balance that risk.
Resilience in the face of failure is often linked to personal growth as well. How have your business experiences shaped you personally? Can you share a moment where your professional resilience translated into a personal transformation?
I had a really awful period where someone who worked for me set up their own business doing what we did and then went on a campaign against me I think to cover up what they were doing. It was a very hard time for me personally anyway as some family members were very unwell. It took everything I had to continue to show up for my clients and my team and I think it really showed me how strong and resilient I was. There were so many lessons and I am grateful for them even though it was incredibly tough at the time.