February 24th 2020 is a date that we won’t forget.

At the time of writing this, it is 200 days from the day that we first met to look at managing our risk against COVID-19. Our meeting was a short one, roughly thirty minutes. There were a few actions and we decided to meet again the following week.

On 24th February there were just 13 cases and no UK deaths. There were murmurs of a global pandemic and UK schools closing but at the time, it just didn’t seem possible.

How wrong we were.

Fortunately, that half hour meeting was enough to help us recognise that there was a potential threat to our business. Every little thing counts in a crisis and this meeting helped put COVID-19 on our radar.

By early March we had met several more times and created a detailed risk register. We felt as prepared as we could be.

The crisis management rule book and common sense told us that we had to maintain positive cashflow and have a robust plan in place. We also agreed that we needed to focus on doing three things very well:

  • Leadership – there were times when it felt like everything was against us. In the first few weeks, no matter how well we planned or what decisions we made, our plan had to change and worry would set in. And then it hit home, the COVID-19 crisis is a once-in-a-century event. No training or experience has prepared anyone for this. We didn’t need to worry about factors that were out of our control. We needed to focus on Aspire, our team and our customers. Our team needed to believe in us, they needed to believe in what we were aiming to achieve during this period and they needed us to believe in them. Remain calm, stay focused and be the optimist.
  • Communication – clear messages to our team members and customers were to prove vital. Regular and transparent was at the forefront of our minds. Team meetings EVERY morning where we shared what we had achieved the previous day, the one thing we were working on today and most important, how we were feeling.
  • Creativity – we believed that opportunities would arise and so we encouraged our team to embrace the challenge. Engaging our team, partners and customers gave us different perspectives and helped develop solutions and exciting projects. Our business model changed in some areas of our operation, productivity levels improved, we tweaked processes and we launched exciting new projects.

People say that the real test for any organisation is how well it functions in a crisis. It’s safe to say that COVID-19 is the toughest test we have faced since 2005.

Have we been tested? Yes, literally to breaking point. It’s becoming easier but we know there’ll still be challenges ahead.

Have we coped? Yes, we’ve coped well.

Will we be stronger for it? Although no one knows where the pandemic will take us next, we have all grown as leaders, we’ve achieved a lot and new opportunities are appearing. Aspire is a stronger organisation and we are ready for our next challenge… although a holiday would be nice first.

We’ve achieved so much since that meeting back in February and the whole team are exceptionally proud. We developed new programmes, pivoted our business model, created new opportunities and established deeper relationships.

Most importantly, Aspire didn’t stop. We remained focused on our vision of ending physical inactivity forever and have helped more children be active over the past six months than we would ever have imagined.

Thank you to our passionate team (the best yet) and our wonderful customers.