Running a business in troubled times
Keeping a cool head when all seems to be uncertain is tricky. Recent shocks around the global economy, the ongoing impact and uncertainty of Corona Virus and domestically the massive damage from a deadly and unprecedented BushFire season. It all feels a little on edge right now.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself: nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933
So what are we to do as individuals and as business owners to help keep a cool head?
1: Seek the truth
Data, accurate data, can make the difference between a good decision and a poor decision. Start seeking the truth behind the information you have to hand. Does what you are experiencing align with what you are seeing, reading, feeling? Is it a trend that others are seeing or feeling in your industry, region and beyond. Seek the truth and use several sources of data to help you better qualify what you are utilising and to aid in your decision making.
2: Make smart decisions
No one aims to make dumb decisions. Yet, sometimes we all do. Dumb decisions can be caused by irrationality, lack of process and by being overcome with emotions. Start by seeking to make smart decisions, even a decision, to make smart decisions, is helpful in calming nervousness and slowing down your decision making. At the same time, there is a need to keep making decisions. Ideally smart decisions. One process I follow is to work out the big decisions first, then cascade down from the big decision, to lower-level decisions based on making the higher order decisions first.
3: Don't get paralysed
To keep a bike upright, you have to keep moving. The challenge during uncertain times is to keep moving. So what areas right now are you feeling paralysed about in regards to your business? When it all feels too much, think about the first step you can take. The immediate next thing you can do. Right now. When you find yourself taking enough first steps, you'll find that you keep moving and can find a way through. You don't need to know all the steps ahead, but you do need to commit to taking the next step.
4: Talk to an expert
There is a lot we don't know. About most things actually. Now is the time to seek and find an expert. Talk about your business, your family, your health. Start talking. Understand what you really need to do to protect your business and reduce your exposure to risk. In the insurance world, talk to an insurance broker today. Make the call, send the email. Reach out to understand what insurance cover is available and what insurance could look like for you.
5: Focus on discretionary costs
The economy is under pressure. The need to focus on your cost base is self-evident. Find discretionary costs in your business, identify them, remove them. With tightening economic conditions, businesses need to make early and impactful decisions. Most discretionary costs creep into a business over time; a subscription here, a new event there, some additional tools etc. There are discretionary costs that need to be cut - do it now.
6: Double down on what works
Businesses naturally extend over time into trying new things and exploring new opportunities. Now is the time to take a good look at what you do, where you create value, and double down on core business areas. Double down on what you really do, cut what is non-core. Now.
7: Take time out
Your mental health is important. Vitally important for your business. No one can maintain a war footing every day 24hrs a day. Let yourself have some downtime to refresh and regroup. This will look different for each person, and might even mean stepping away from the business, even when it needs you most. Just for a time. Protect your mental health. Create the space you need. Turn off the 24 hr news cycle, even when the latest update is nearly due.
8: Reset your expectations
2020 will not go to plan. Some businesses will be massively boosted; toilet paper, hand sanitizer and food delivery services. Some businesses will be significantly impacted; airlines, conferences, travel, education. Reset your expectations and forecasts. Sales will take longer to close, getting to yes will require more.
9: Be prudent early
Review all areas, double down on what works, keep moving, seek experts. These are some prudent steps to take. Others will be more specific and personalised. Spend time working out what being prudent early, means for you. Start by making a plan, write it down, add meat to the bones later, sketch it out. Explore.
10: Seek to understand others before being understood: rationale or not.
Stephen Covey (habit 5 of The 7 habits of highly effective people
) was right then, and is still right now. Understanding others is a critical skill in modern life. Right now, more people are acting less rationally and more emotionally. Understand that people, yourself included, might be feeling more anxious or uncertain and therefore acting differently to how "most normal people would act". Seeking to understand others first, before being understood.
General Advice Warning This advice is general and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances. Before you make any decision about whether to acquire a certain product, you should obtain and read the relevant product disclosure statement.