In the Chinese language, the symbol representing crisis also represents opportunity. The Chinese understand these two situations as one and the same. Because of the recent events and the media’s interpretation of these events, business owners are apt to only address one facet of this symbol - the crisis. The interpretation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am not saying that the Dow has not dropped. I am not saying that the future is stable. What I am saying is that there is a choice, not around the events (what is, is) but around your response to the events. Ironically, in this regard, there is no difference between now and a year ago. We were always at a crossroads to choose. Right now too many business owners are concentrating on the shadow of the event and not on the beam which causes the shadow.
Here are some issues facing entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners. Allow me to address statements I am hearing from clients, ask some uncomfortable questions and still introduce a few rays of light into the shadows.
1. My employee numbers are too high to sustain profitability.
I suggest that they were probably too high before September 11 also.
- Have you looked at who is on staff and what they are doing?
- Is everyone on your staff moving towards the same goals?
- Have you provided a compelling vision, leadership, and a means to arrive at that vision?
It is impossible to grow a business, much less be profitable, if you do not have answers to these questions. This gap may indicate that whoever you do have on staff may not be moving in the direction best suited for your business goals. This means energy wasted going in too many directions instead of focused on core values of the business.
2. I have to do more with less.
The normal response to a downturn in the economy is to lay off people and cut back. Those surviving the cutbacks are asked to do more with less resources in a time that cultural values are shifting to balancing work and personal life. This becomes a fundamental contradiction and an impairment to good morale and productivity.
- Again, have you focused your efforts on a few key areas which you consider your expertise, or are you still trying to be all things to all people in a misdirected effort to grasp revenues?
- What are the special talents of those who are retained and how are they best placed for maximum effectiveness, without demoralizing the survivors or threatening their own values of life/work balance?
- How can you support your staff and your clients in a way which produces a positive effect on your business? (Maybe you should ask them?)
3. Cutbacks vs. Enhancements.
- Does the cutback only have to occur in staff and expenses?
Instead of a negative approach to the economy, consider a positive approach. Don’t look so much at eliminating, concentrate on enhancing. Enhance those key areas in which you or your company excels. In the process of enhancing your strengths, the elimination of energy consuming practices will more naturally and easily fall away. Target and maximize the market which provides the greatest opportunity for sustainability and profitability. Let go of the rest. Not necessarily forever, but in the interim this could be a better approach than the negativity associated with downsizing and cutbacks.
4. Previous success strategies aren’t working.
I repeatedly hear statements saying, but it worked before! Why do we hold on to old ways of being, when what is demanded of us is a new way of being in a new environment? As Einstein said:
"The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
If we create strategies based on old paradigms, trying to fit them into a new economy like a square peg in a round hole, we will get nowhere but frustrated. Start from scratch, look at what is right in front of you, right now, then create strategies around that. If some previous strategies seem to align with what is present now, consider them in relation to this new standard. Use your bright and creative human resource to develop new tools, institute new best practices, encourage brainstorming from all personnel, research ideas based on a current reality and future potential. Look forward, not backwards.
5. I can’t tell my clients or staff about my problems.
Why not? An important, and commonly overlooked element in times of crisis is trust. Employees express their betrayal after being told that no layoffs would occur, suddenly finding themselves jobless. And we wonder about company loyalty? It is not in the telling of the problems as much as in the framing of the obstacles and in the presentation of the solutions. You can share with employees and clients what you consider obstacles if you have developed a relationship of trust and respect.
Within a framework of trust and respect, the message becomes a rallying cry towards a new vision, new services or innovative products.
- Ok, the ride might get bumpy but the doors that are opening are xyz.
- We are enhancing our commitment to personal service at this time and request your input.
- We are re-focusing our efforts on xyz market to gain a greater percentage of that market.
There are many ways of moving from fear-based language into opportunity-based action.
6. Now the competition will be really tough.
This may be true but it is up to you to decide if this can work in your favor. Now, more than ever, it becomes important to collaborate with others. If you are willing to share the pie, you may get a taste of a different flavor. Nurture your strategic alliances. Look for companies which provide services which complement your product or service. Get to know them, build a relationship with others who are aligned with your business philosophy. Look for collaboration in areas you may not have wanted to try on your own before. You may discover not only new partnerships, but new markets as well.
7. Relying on data only.
When confronted with the unknown we tend to look for quantifiable data to direct our efforts. That in itself is not bad, if it is combined with experience, intuition and imagination. Again, (I’m in an Einstein mood)
"Imagination is more important than knowledge..." - Albert Einstein
8. Evaluating weaknesses and strengths.
Because we may have gotten somewhat complacent, we take for granted what we see are our weaknesses and strengths. I encourage you to re-look at these measured against a new standard of doing business. What you may have seen as a weakness may actually be totally irrelevant in a re-focusing of your business. What you may have seen as a strength may be have become obsolete as compared to your clients' current needs.
"The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein
- What does leadership look like now?
It requires someone to have a compelling vision and to be committed to acting on it. It requires the person to create an environment of learning and creativity. And it demands that the leader develop those around him/her. In order to grow, the leadership of the organization must be open to new ideas and be a cheerleader to those who work for him/her. A good leader is willing to develop people in knowledge and abilities even to the point of surpassing him/herself.
10. Stop whining!
Most importantly, stop complaining. If you long for the good ole days, remember there were no good ole days. There were better days, but there were worse also. Be objective in evaluating your business and the marketplace, but be optimistic as well.
Think about shifting your perspective to the beam of light instead of the shadow. Use what resources you have, especially your human resources. Encourage creativity. Create an environment of trust and respect for your clients and employees. This can be more rewarding for you personally, ideas can flow with greater ease, and you may actually make some money doing business in a new manner with greater integrity. Of course, I will have to end with a favorite quote by Albert Einstein. In so many unique ways, he was truly a genius!
"If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x, y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut." - Albert Einstein, Observer, Jan. 15, 1950
Alicia Rodriguez is a personal and executive coach and business facilitator whose soul-centered coaching technique provides clarity around what matters most to you, strategies to take you into action and unconditional support to achieve pragmatic, sustainable results. For more information, visit her website at: www.sclmcoach.com or subscribe to her bi-monthly e-letter, EveryDay Epiphanies by sending a blank email to EDE@sclmcoach.com with "subscribe" in the subject line.