We’re all too familiar with what happens when the economy turns south or your business slows down: Budgets are slashed. Training and development dollars are suspended. Travel is curtailed. Salaries are decreased. Expenses are reduced.
Basically there are two ways to weather the storm: You can hunker down and wait until things get better. Or you can do something now that will increase your business savvy.
When your company experiences a slowdown or financial trouble, that is the time to improve the depth and breadth of your business knowledge. Doing so can result in you staying and growing with your company or moving on, on your own terms, thus ensuring your personal financial growth.
- Rule #1: Take action now. Interview different managers and ask questions like: What immediate challenges does the company face (whether or not you’re directly responsible for that area)? What three issues are we facing today? Why are these issues important? How do you suggest they be resolved? How much will it cost if we do? How much will it cost if we don’t?
- Rule #2: Don’t believe the naysayers. Be careful not to fall victim to company naysayers. You need to truly believe in your company, employees, and products/services. As you ask questions, a common theme will emerge. Investigate with outside people. Ask for their thoughts and opinions. Then put together a plan. Now is not the time to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.
- Rule #3: Don’t be afraid to brainstorm. Part of your company’s trouble could be due to blaming things on external forces. Are people responsibly moving projects forward, improving customer service, closing prospective sales, etc. Review an outline of the solution with people inside and outside the organization. Really listen to their ideas. Whenever possible, incorporate their ideas and thoughts. What do they like? What don’t they like? What alternatives could they provide? Don’t be afraid to brainstorm. Can others live with the plan even if it’s not ideal? Ask for their help. If they’re not willing, move on.
- Rule #4: Have the guts to fail (do the best you can by the time you say you will).
- Rule #5: Avoid perfectionism (things can always be done “better”).
- Rule #6: Don’t wait for all the facts (there will always be more). Establish some goals for three months out. Consider hiring a coach or consultant who will keep you on track and moving forward.
- Rule #7: Not everyone will agree with your goals. If you’re clear and consistent and you follow through, they’ll come around. Now is the time to stay focused on making sales and delivering products and services on time and within budget. It’s not time to worry about the carpeting. Curtail unnecessary spending. Focus on having money coming in the door while ensuring that the highest quality of products/services are meeting customers’ needs.
- Rule #8: Be willing to learn your life lessons now, instead of waiting for tomorrow. Stay focused on achieving the results. You may need to lay some people off. (Many companies delay this dreadful task too long or jump at it too quickly to save a few bucks.) This will require a level of objectivity that many managers fail to reach and can be a very uncomfortable process. It can also become a turf war. The bad news is that you may win the battle, but ultimately lose the war if you’re not looking at the larger picture.Ask questions: What happens with different projects if we cut these employees now? How do those projects impact the bottom line? Which employees are most versatile? Which have the best skills? Which work best with customers, internally and externally? These are the employees you need to keep, even if they’re not the ones you like best!
- Rule #9: Have fun and enjoy your accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments of others. Of course, there are no guarantees that by following these rules, you’ll keep your current job and your company will succeed and stay in business. One benefit, however, is that you’ll learn to move forward with ease. You’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself, your relationship with goals and how to achieve them, and how to work effectively with different types of people. Now is also the time to celebrate your successes and others’ achievements.
Vistage Associate Jeannette Seibly is principal of SeibCo, LLC, an executive coach and management consulting firm based in Castle Rock, Colorado.