Amongst the many businesses and organisations that have been severely affected by the current situation are those operating in the field of arts, culture and heritage. Lockdown has invariably meant it has neither been possible to host events nor open to the public to deliver the experience normally on offer.
As a result, many have faced a significant or even total loss of revenue requiring a reliance on organisational financial reserves, if they exist. Whilst other sectors of the economy might have been able to adapt to new ways of satisfying customer needs, the arts, culture and heritage sector, often due its limitation on resources and the nature of the offering, has probably been less agile or able to adapt.
Those charged with the management of such organisations, be they Trustees, Board members or members of an executive team, are now experiencing a new set of challenges. Whilst developing projects or generating new ideas is very much at the heart of such organisations, as is the constant pressure to generate funding, the current situation has created a new order. In many cases there is a need to re-visit the business plan and strategy with survival very much at the core, whilst at the same time maintaining a focus on the future and sustainability.
As with many organisations, managing the situation is often hard to address if you rely solely on the team around you. External support and guidance is certainly essential, even a prerequisite. It may be thought that advice might not be readily available at the current time, with working arrangements, financial pressures and the sense that most will need to focus on their own business as opposed that of others.
However, stepping up to the challenge are change consultants Tricolor Associates. Headed up by Managing Director Sarah Dowd, Tricolor specialises in transformational change, project management and funding initiatives. Much of their work focuses on place-making, regeneration initiatives and National Lottery Heritage Fund projects. In its ten-year history it has helped over 100 clients deliver organisational change and community transformation through successful project development and delivery.
With a number of projects underway and with a business model that embraces the cloud and digital working, the Tricolor team have been able to continue to work with very little or no disruption. The upside is that this has provided capacity to support organisations adversely affected by Covid-19.
Recognising the challenges faced by the sector in which they work, Sarah and her team have been spending time over the last couple of months providing advice and support to those concerned about the here and now as well the future.
When asked about the work Tricolor are undertaking Sarah said: “Whether it is a heritage attraction such as a Cathedral, an arts venue such as a theatre or a museum or other visitor attraction, all are understandably anxious, worried about the impact the current situation is having. These are unprecedented times and few, if any, of those managing or running organisations across the sector have the experience or skills in house to deal with the situation. Management, Trustees and Boards all certainly need a ‘friend’ to turn to.
“Initial conversations tend to focus on dealing with the immediate impact of the lockdown, then thoughts turn to the future and the need to adapt to the changing world. Our focus is primarily on finances as most, if not all, have lost income generated from visitors and other commercial sources. Our conversations then tend to be around the shape of the future and the need to perhaps embrace digital delivery, new marketing approaches and even to develop new projects.
“The opportunity to share experiences with a trusted third party relieves some of the anxiety. Being able to develop some form of coherent plan also helps to provide a focus and direction of travel.
“To support those in the sector we are talking to organisations on a voluntary basis, seeking to support them with as much advice and guidance as we can.”
In recognition of the importance of being able to mentor these organisations, Sarah has become a Santander’s Women in Business Mentor and National Council for Voluntary Organisations business volunteer. Sarah is also a Lottery Fund Consultant mentor.