How to be proactive in uncertain times


How to be proactive in uncertain times

This page was last updated on March 23, 2021

One of the key reasons clients and customers cite when deciding to change an adviser or supplier is a lack of proactivity. 

Our March Business Club, led by Shipleys' Tim Hardy and Dean Hardy, examined what proactivity looks like in the current business environment where so much is unclear. We discussed what it takes to be a proactive adviser, business contact or employee. 

23 March 2021

Uncovering the essence of proactivity

Proactivity is rather a subjective thing – what one person may feel is proactive may be not echo what another thinks.  However, when people feel someone has proactively helped them or advised them, they genuinely value it and remain very loyal to that person.

A common theme that underpins most definitions of proactivity is that it involves taking some kind of action in anticipation of future problems, needs, opportunities or changes.

In the Business Club session we discussed what ingredients aided proactivity.  Club members concluded it involved having…

Behaviours and approaches which help

We also looked at what behaviours helped people to be proactive.  Here are some examples Club members shared.


Planning capabilities help at both at a personal level, or among people who work together/do business with each other. Using checklists and deadlines to avoid missing opportunities to help people were also given as helpful activities that support proactivity.

Self-direction and a keenness to use their initiative

This moves a person from simply following what they’re told into a more proactive sphere.  It is greatly aided by an appetite to learn – particularly from mistakes.


Proactivity includes an element of responsiveness, but proactive people respond to others quickly when they reach out to them.  They also anticipate how people will respond, so they can handle different eventualities to a positive outcome for all parties.

Thinking more broadly and deeply about the issue, opportunity or challenge

Proactive people invest time to fully consider a particular issue, opportunity or challenge. In doing so, they are able to identify other solutions or paths which are better suited to the person they are trying to support. An appetite for problem resolution is a great asset here and some undertake risk and scenario planning to arrive at different solutions.


People who are seen as proactive and held in high regard communicate early and clearly the point they’re making, but also in a way people respect.  A key point raised in the session’s discussion was that is important to ask each client or customer or colleague, what they feel is proactive. Without an understanding of what people want and their expectations, it’s very difficult to deliver proactivity that’s valued. It is therefore important not to assume. Over-servicing can be just as off-putting as under-servicing in some cases.

How businesses can foster proactivity

Club members agreed it helps if the business culture and working environment encourages proactivity.  Proactivity shouldn’t just be the domain of leaders and all employees should be empowered to look for ways to be proactive. Having a growth mindset in the business helps this, so too does having an understanding of the different challenges colleagues are facing in the current environment and working conditions.

Looking ahead, it is better if businesses create a framework that empower people to act. This involves equipping people with the skills they need, building engagement and alignment with the organisation’s objectives and having the right recruitment and retention strategies in place.

Some Club members also felt it is important to play to team members’ strengths – recognising some people are better at being proactive; whereas others are better at being reactive.  In smaller businesses especially it’s important to appreciate these different skill-sets and strengths and make the most of them – all are equally crucial for business growth and success.


From our March Club discussion, the general consensus was that proactivity in uncertain times succeeds from having a deep understanding of the person you are trying to help, and a genuine desire to help them.  It is about finding the best solution for them (not you).

And as this was our last Club session before the end of the 2020/21 Tax Year, we finished the discussion with some tips to highlight things to consider pre 5 April. Here are some resources we shared:

Read: End of Tax Year Guide

Read: Budget Summary 2021

If you would like to join our future Business Club events, please contact the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.

Specific advice should be obtained before taking action, or refraining from taking action, in relation to this summary. If you would like advice or further information, please speak to your usual Shipleys contact.

Copyright © Shipleys LLP 2021

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