Chin Up! Eyes Forward! What You Can Do Right Now.

Following the last month, it’s clear we are entering a new era in business. Our core presumptions and expectations are under attack. We wonder, will our:

  • Customers keep buying?
  • Creditors cut us off?
  • Debtors pay us?

The best and brightest financial experts aren’t helping. In September, I listened to the Chief Economist of Wachovia Bank confess he did not know what was happening and had no advice for us. Last week Wells Fargo bought Wachovia.

But we small business owners must decide what to do now. Here are five ideas:

  1. Reconfirm that your customers need what you provide and particularly from you. Companies don’t buy, people do and everyone is worried. Expect your clients to express FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) at every step. As human beings, our deepest need is to be needed, wanted, heard and understood. Take the approach that regardless of any standing contract you are two bad meetings away from losing any customer.

  2. If everyone is conserving cash, be generous with your time to those who value it and have found the money to pay for you. Many tasks may take longer as we all move through the four phases of loss (denial, anger, self pity and acceptance). The short term will take longer to pass.

  3. There are no silver bullets, neither to save us nor to shoot our vampires. If the best and brightest got us into this mess their successors will need time to get us out of it. Patiently use all your resources beyond money to find and implement solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers, vendors, employees and competitors for ideas and resources they can locate, share, or barter with you.

  4. If inertia is the status quo, activity will set you apart. If your sales are slow, then increase your prospecting. If your operations are slow, take the time to learn new ways of refreshing your Best and Highest Use. If nothing will happen in your business for a couple of weeks, then take a vacation or a sabbatical and return ready to rock and roll.

  5. Convey infectious optimism and stay open to change. Find your own level of confidence and conviction in what you believe is true and probable. Every business has near-absolute truths. Seasonality, the 80/20 rule, and every person’s avoidance of risk and pursuit of pleasure are examples. Discover ways to leverage these by creating new offerings that exploit company and individual behavior you know isn’t changing. And be optimistic about making an impact despite not receiving instant feedback to your noble efforts.

Back in the 1970’s when the economy was pretty bad, a contractor/engineer stopped by our house to inspect some brick work his workers had to rebuild to perfection. Our family was so proud of this modest improvement that we could barely afford. Conversely, he could barely swallow his pride he was so annoyed at having the quality of his work exposed. After everyone was satisfied, my mother asked him if he could take five remaining bricks away with him as we had company coming over. He retorted, “Mrs. Birol, I am an engineer and don’t work with my hands but with my head!” “Well then,” my mom replied, “Why don’t you use it and pick up the bricks!” What loose bricks can we pick up today for our customers?

In the coming months we will all need to be more flexible, sensitive and focused on delivering value, perhaps in different forms than we are used to doing. Common sense and simple touches made the difference back then and will do so again. So let’s pick our chins up, put our eyes forward and start doing it now!

Contact Andy Birol now if you need coaching or consulting help to keep your chin up and eyes foward during economic challenges.

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