Just like the seasons of the year, the economy cycles. It appears that we are in a heavy economic winter. Winter is not bad. It just requires preparation and an appropriate response to make it good. In fact, if you are a child, you look forward to the fun that comes with the change of season.
A fundamental principle for facing any challenge is to understand that circumstances are neither good nor bad. It is your response to circumstance that turns that circumstance into a fun adventure or a devastating disappointment. It is essential, especially in challenging times, to be ready to create, change, and innovate. People who are filled with fear, worry, and distress are not in a creative frame of mind. Remember that spring will eventually come, and how you respond in winter will prepare you to plant in the spring.
So first, let me offer some thoughts about mental attitude. A positive attitude is the number one ingredient for thriving in these tough times - not just surviving but thriving! Difficult times provide an opportunity for you to become a leader. As the majority moves down, you move up, which makes you attractive. Times like these provide a platform to display character qualities like perseverance, hope, and determination. Hardship and difficulty will either make you bitter or better. It is how you choose to respond that determines the result.
Perspective is a key. Do you see problems, challenges, or opportunities? The fact is you will find what you are looking for! Are you searching for a dirty piece of coal or a beautiful diamond? Are you a whiner or a miner?
Don't follow the herd. Fear, panic, lack of confidence, and worry; they all kill creativity, innovation, and the willingness to change. It seems that in tough times many people retreat to hours of gazing at the media for some sort of escape. You need to take ownership and responsibility for your thoughts. A little news goes a long way. Your internal response is more important that having every opinion and detail from the media who focus on the negative and the crisis.
Now for 6 practical ideas to help you thrive in economic winter:
#1. KNOW AND WATCH YOUR KEY FINANCIAL NUMBERS, especially cash flow. With tight credit and less options available for cash, you need to be keenly aware of your cash position. It should be checked at least monthly, and maybe even weekly and daily depending on your business. You also need to be proactive in planning your cash flow and set logical trigger points in your budget to drive your business decisions. When the plane is in the fog, you need to fly by the instrument panel and not the way you feel.
#2 MAKE CUSTOMER SERVICE A TOP PRIORITY. Delivering value is imperative. Customers will be really considering what is valuable and important in their life and what is not. Mediocre service and a lax attitude is not a good thing in any economy, but it will destroy your business in tough times. Your current loyal customers are your lifeline - hold them close and treat them accordingly.
#3 SELL, SELL, AND SELL SOME MORE. Now is the time for you to focus on getting that sales conversion rate through the roof and massively increase sales. Increasing sales is the means to increasing cash flow. If your business is near capacity, then INCREASE YOUR PRICES. That will create more profit, increase cash flow, and free capacity for value based (not price based) buyers.
#4 TRIM THE FAT. It's time to take a close look at your cash flow, budget, and team and trim away the excess. But it's not time to get out the hatchet and start to fearfully chop and destroy your business in a panic. You need to be a surgeon and strategically dissect away the little foxes that eat the vine.
#5 LOOK FOR GREAT PEOPLE. The market will likely be flooded with great people looking for a job opportunity. Many larger organizations will downsize, and turn some great people out into the market place. If you have been challenged to find great employees in the past, this may be the time.
#6 LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITY TO BUY DISTRESSED BUSINESSES. There will some great small businesses that will be for sale. Entrepreneurs that are looking for opportunities will be ready to take advantage.
Finally, this is the time to strengthen your relationships with your business support team. If you don't have an accountant, financial advisor, business coach, and attorney to walk with you through this storm, go find them. It is important that each support team member also carries an "opportunity" perspective as well. A great set of advisors provides that outside perspective and balance to help you make the best decisions. Champions have always surrounded themselves with great people.
So look for the abundance of opportunities in this challenging season, and get ready for a great spring! Remember, you WILL find what you look for.
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