Whether it’s worldwide recession or just a momentary bump in your industry, tough times test character. They test bank accounts too. But they are finite, and you can get through them. You just need a survival plan.
The most important implement in overcoming trying stretches is your own mindset. Here are 7 suggestions for getting your head right in tough times:
- Start by Recognizing it. Denial is death. When the numbers start to dwindle, you cannot simply pretend it away. Your starting point is to acknowledge that you’re facing a difficult stretch and to resolve to do something about it. Start with the declaration: “It’s a rough patch, but I’ll get through this and come out stronger!”
- Don’t Blame the Jeans. The dieter who blames the jeans is in trouble. But the one who owns the bum will get it right, and it’s the same for you. You can expend all of your energy bewailing your scenario, blaming the economy, the industry, the old government, the new government, China and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. But ultimately, these outside forces don’t care how mistreated you feel. Blaming the jeans won’t fix the bum. It’s like the sales team who spend the first six months of the year moaning about targets being too high. When they finally get around to accepting that the targets are what they are, and that they have to do something about it, it’s already too late. But the early starter is well on his way to meeting his goals.
- Choose Doing Over Stewing. You can think your way into a black hole. Or you can think of creative solutions. Your brain is entirely your own to manage and employ. When times are tough, the worst thing you can do is to let it wallow. Instead, choose to get angry enough to do something about your situation. The more time you spend doing, the less you have for available for stewing.
- Draw up to-do lists for actions that you can take. When the despair tries to press its way in, keep it at bay with a bout of relentless action.
- Expand when others contract. When times are tough, most people contract. They practice Recession-Think. Recession-Think is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It goes like this: “No one’s buying. So I won’t try to sell.” Recession-Think is based on rumour more than experience. Practitioners of Recession-Think haven’t tested the notion that people are not buying. They have simply bought into popular dialogue. And they allow it to cause their energy to shrink. The person who ignores the gloom and goes out and sells anyway will prosper, even in tough times. Their philosophy is: “Times are tough / I must do more!” They have the same information, but they have reached a different conclusion. They are expanding. Make sure your inner energy is an expanding starburst, not an imploding black hole.
- Go and be where the energy is. There are always people who are prospering in your industry; even during tough times. You need to go and be among them. Now more than ever, you need ideas, inspiration and positive reinforcement. Go to the conventions, and soak up two incredibly important nutrients: useful ideas and positive energy. Sometimes the connections alone can be worth business. But you’ll never make them unless you go there.
- Speak vision in stories. You need your team to keep fighting, and fighting harder than ever. You won’t achieve this with micro-managing or doom-saying. Quite the contrary: during tough times, you need to be the motivational speaker, and they need to see that you mean it. You have to internalize the possibilities, then turn them into picture-stories for your staff. Create highly specific stories about how things can be on the far side of this hiccup. Keep telling your stories, and keep guiding your team toward the goal.
- Focus on the top-line. Panicked business-owners tend to focus on saving every penny. They get hung up on the cost of paper-clips. It’s a tremendous misuse of their energy and focus. Yes, you should keep an eye on the bottom-line, but it should only be an incidental one. You should use the greatest part of your energy and time on increasing the top line. You need income. There is very little sense in expending 90% of your energy trying to hold on to an insufficient amount of money. The main thrust of your energy should go to generating more money.
Select what you can control and determine what you can’t. Put massive drive into money-generating behaviour, and don’t allow your nay-saying mind to worry about the rest. Fight for the thing that matters to you; it can be done, and remember that difficult times are finite.
Finally, don’t forget to look at the stars from time to time. This is not a metaphor. Every now and then, you need to stare up at the heavens and feel incredibly small. Be removed from your worries for a moment and remember the wonder of life. There’s something good for you, just around the corner. Just keep your head in gear. You’ll make it!