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COVID-19: How challenges can often present the greatest opportunities

COVID-19: How challenges can often present the greatest opportunities

Monday, 07 September 2020

Blog written by Ewan Dodds, Whybrow CEO 

The last 35 years in business have most definitely taught me a lot… and now in the throes of a global pandemic, I’m most certainly pulling on past experience of challenging times to help steer the Whybrow ship. COVID-19 has given me the time to reflect on how challenges can often present the greatest opportunities. 


Some years ago, I was asked by a local Sixth Form College to present to some 600 of their graduates at their end of year presentations on my career about what I had learned in business. I remember thinking how keen to learn I had been at the start of my education, sort of but not quite the school swot and how I had always sat at the front of the class, eager to learn and ask questions. But as my memories cleared, I saw how my seat position in class gradually edged further and further to the back, where I would be less visible, further away from my teacher, sort of anonymous.


Or so I thought! As I asked less questions, I learnt less, and my grades suffered. My exam results were adequate but less than stellar as I proceeded through A-levels, my degree and then my RICS qualifications - usually ending up at the rear of the classroom or lecture theatre.


My light bulb moment was having returned to work for Whybrow in Colchester when I was encouraged by my Senior Partner, Peter Arnold, to join the Chamber of Commerce and to network, venture out and meet people. In doing so, I automatically started asking questions. My hand which, hitherto had been largely inert during my formative years in education started shooting up to the vertical at virtually every meeting I attended. I made it my plan to ask at least one question to the visiting speaker, often to kick off the debate.


And then I was noticed; being invited onto the Chamber Board, rising to Vice and then to President, to running my own meetings, presenting to hundreds of people in a wide variety of events, briefing the press, then to becoming the lead partner for business on Colchester 2020, the town’s Local Strategic Partnership.


Perhaps then, some 20 years too late (it’s never too late!) I had finally learnt, there is never a stupid question; the only stupid thing is not asking that question. Usually the question that many people want to ask, the answer to which will teach them something new.


Oh, those wasted years when I didn’t ask the questions, I should have for fear of looking stupid in front of my peers.

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