Summer has long gone and the season of fall is quickly eclipsing into the colder months we know are coming – I’m not ready to say the “W” word just yet. I do live in Wisconsin after all; it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
I’ve come to visit friends that I known for thirty plus years and see on occasion. Some still live in Manitowoc, and the rest of us travel from other places. Having arrived early, I find this a quiet time to reflect on the memories I shared with friends many years ago.
As I wait in the coffee shop, the memories and faces are flowing easily. More than any, I am drawn to images of an early autumn night where many of us would build a fire and talk for hours while enjoying the lake. The flames were spectacular and mesmorizing as they always are. No matter how big the fire would become, it would never mask the incredible beauty of an expansive star-filled sky. While the flames would leap to the heavens, the stars danced and captured our attention. At times, the talk would stop and we would quietly take it all in, as the stars pulsed, changed and shot across the sky. The beauty and silence of it all was almost deafening in a way.
While we don’t appreciate the move of some seasons to others – such as, autumn to winter – we eventually accept it, move on and may even choose to participate in activities to make the time go by. Similarly, we have that same ebb and flow of seasons in business. The economy has been very good to many of us for many seasons, if not years. We knew, even though it was hard to accept, that it wouldn’t last forever. Maybe the challlenge I hear when others describe today’s climate is the unpredictability of the economic impact, maybe it’s the unmerciful shift from one season to another, maybe it’s the unrelenting impact on people we know and admire. Who knows, it may be all of these and others.
How do we conquer the seasons of business and the stress it brings upon us an others who work with us?
- Be strategic: Step out of the chaos of day-to-day operations and pull people around you that you trust most to advise you on the pressing dillemma’s of the day. One resource I often refererence in times like this names this the 5% Solution, the amount of time you need to look ahead & think.
- Set aside time for yourself to reflect, think, and identify the most pressing issues.
- Focus on strategic issues that have life and death, or significant consequences.
- Be brutally honest and candid with those you have brought around to help you.
- Schedule a meeting with those closest to you. Ask tough questions and listen.
- Consider the big picture when addressing today’s pressing dilemma’s: strategy, culture, structure, leadership, process, etc.
- Assume the leadership role: Too often, business leaders are indecisive and hope that they can wait things out. You may not be able to control the economic volatility – no one can at this point – but there are a number of things you can do.
- Don’t hide in your office – go out and walk the floors.
- Don’t think that everyone expects you to have the master plan – ask others for ideas.
- Don’t waffle in your decisions – make up your mind and modify it if you need to.
- Don’t take on really big issues – tackle them by prioritizing & breaking them down.
- Don’t lead by creating followers and fans – create leaders who can share the burden.
- Trim unecessary capital costs & operating expenses: We can’t always afford the time and resources that were part of the plan and something we had even communicated to others.
- Don’t cut expenses across the board. Demonstrate courage and decisiveness.
- Cut things that really don’t matter to customers or clients.
- Ask people across the organization what the business should have stopped a long time ago.
- Make your decisions, communicate to managers and employees, and explain why.
- Ramp up targeted investments in key areas: marketing, leadership, etc.
The memory of the fire is about to fade and it’s time to move ahead and visit friends, eat pizza and talk smart. Until next time.