You may not have heard of Francesca Jones, but I suspect in the next year or two she might become a household name.

And I suspect that you’ll never be able to spell “Ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome” or maybe even be able to say it. It turns out that copy and paste is a handy function to have when you’re writing a weekly e-shot.

In the unlikely event that you have heard of Ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome (let’s called it EEDS for short), I suspect it might be that like me you stumbled on the story of Francesca Jones whilst reading the sports section of whatever site you get most of your news from.

EEDS is a rare genetic condition which often affects the fingers and toes, In Francesca Jones case, that means she has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on her right foot and four toes on her left.

And generally speaking, that doesn’t qualify as an advantage if your plans are to be a professional tennis player. So to have made it at the age of 20 to be the 5th best female tennis player in Britain and the 241st best player in the world is pretty amazing. And Jones is on the up as well having battled through the qualifying rounds to make it into her first Grand Slam this week.

I confess that I hadn’t heard of her until recently and I still know very little now but it was fascinating to hear an interview with her about her journey. Her story seemed to sum up the four pillars of performance that we have been covering in the past few weeks in the four videos with Steve and Roger.

First of all, I guess it’s hard not to be self-aware (see video 1) when you’ve faced numerous bouts of surgery. That level of understanding has pushed Jones to concentrate on issues such as balance which are of course harder for her.

In terms of aligning values (video 2) “no excuses” seems to be right up there.

In a week where mistakes by the goalkeeper for the champions of English football were blamed on him having “cold feet”, there are no such excuses from Jones. Rather than seeing her condition as a disability, Jones sees it at as an advantage. She believes that the surgery she had to endure throughout her childhood has given her a mental toughness that most of her opponents do not possess.

And perhaps that mental toughness also translates into an ability to take the initiative and make good decisions (video 3). In the week when the training centre at Roehampton was being closed for the first lockdown, Jones borrowed some of the weights from the gym to take home with her.

She then spent most of lockdown working on her strength in her Dad’s garage. Well that’s productivity (video 4) ticked off! “The way I see it is that I am just playing the game with a different set of cards,” Jones told BBC Sport. “But it doesn’t mean those cards still can’t win the game.”

When all this is over, how will you judge your personal performance in the Pandemic?

Will you look back proudly at how you got in early before the toilet rolls ran out? Or have you taken the opportunity to build and grow your knowledge and skills? Or maybe its just taken all your energy and wits to survive the past 12 months.

At least we are starting to get an idea of what the end game is on all this. There’s no clear finish line in sight because Covid will be a fact of life for many years. Vaccine, variant, new vaccine, new variant. But the cases, hospitalisations and deaths will fall to a level that the public is willing to accept and a permanent normal will return. As far as the degree to which that impacts our lifestyles and your business, well your guess is as good as mine.

But owner-managed businesses will adapt. I’ve constantly been amazed by the stoic nature of our clients and the ways they can find to keep going.

The nature of the impact on you is different to the impact on me which is different to the impact on the next person. Fairness doesn’t come into it. But whatever hand you’ve been dealt, you just have to play it to the best of your ability. Just because you’re playing the game with a different set of cards, doesn’t mean those cards can’t win the game.

Have a good weekend.

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Malcolm Palmer

FCA

Managing Partner

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