Hope is no longer an option in these unchartered waters

Staff at Wall Street Stock Exchange
Last week over $1 trillion was wiped of the world’s stock markets and as of writing this, they continue to fall. The USA’s credit rating was reduced by one agency and the possibility looms that it may be reduced further. The politicians in the Euro zone are papering over cracks that continue to spread and grow. There are renewed talks of a double-dip recession and all the makings of a “perfect storm”. There is nothing to indicate that things are going to get better any time soon but every indication that things could easily get much worse.

With the prediction that unemployment in the public sector will rise it is the private sector that politicians are looking to for growth. With the bank’s profit results looking grim there is little chance that they will be lending anytime soon and help the private sector invest for growth.

Business-as-usual makes no sense in these unchartered waters that we find ourselves in. And make no mistake, these are unchartered waters. No-one really knows how this is going to turn out and there are no historical events quite like what we face today to learn from.

As business owners and leaders, we are “navigating” through these treacherous waters on our own. We cannot hope that we will get through this; instead we must do everything we can to make sure that we get through this.

What you need to do right now is step away, thoroughly assess your business and strengthen as many areas of it as you can. (I understand that for very small businesses this can be difficult but you must find the time to do this and seek help if you need to.)

Carry out a thorough assessment of your company, markets and risks. Think about how you can make sure your business not only survives but comes out stronger.

Here are 7 things to consider to get you going:

  1. Your company – Are you on course to hit your goals? Are there weaknesses in your company that you really must address before they hurt your business? Are there strengths that you can exploit further? Are your processes aligned and working effectively? Do you have the best business models which help you capture as much customer value as possible? An annual self-assessment is a vital part of setting the right goals and plans. Regardless of where you are in your fiscal year, in these extraordinary times, don’t wait, do one now.
  2. People – your people are your best assets…look after them. Make sure they’re motivated and achieving their targets. If they’re not then take responsibility for that, find out what’s wrong and help them. You don’t want to lose them and so make sure they have the training, tools, direction and support they need to return the business you need.
  3. Do they know and embrace your vision and do you empower and involve them when deciding how to implement your plan? Make sure they know how they contribute to the success of the company and how much you value them.

  4. Relationships – Your relationships are crucial, are you looking after them as much as you could be? What would be the effect on your business if they closed? Are you delivering what your customers need? Could you be doing more? Are they struggling in any areas where you could help or introduce another organisation who could help? Aim beyond demand creation. What of your other stakeholders? If you will struggle without them then speak to them, check to see how they’re doing and what help you might be able to give each other. Form stronger strategic partnerships that will help you both survive and grow.
  5. Your markets – Are you delivering what the key players in your target markets need now and are likely to need in the future? Are you aware of what your competitors are offering? You may not need to deliver something better but you need to know if what they offer meets customer needs better than your solutions.Technology advances at an ever faster pace. Are you abreast of these changes? Can you exploit them? There are a number of external influences that can impact your market segments. Don’t be caught out by them; prepare for them and use them to your advantage if you can.
  6. Strategy – If you don’t have strategic planning system for setting and implementing the goals that will strengthen your company and steer it towards your vision then establish one. If you don’t have a strategy plan that details these goals and the objectives and means for achieving them then develop one. If you do have such a plan and the supporting processes then check they’re working and adapt if necessary.

    This strategy plan isn’t your business plan but lies at the heart of it. It isn’t your marketing strategy but includes it. This is the plan of the goals you have set and how you aim to achieve them. You cannot stay in control and keep your business on course without one.

  7. Leadership – Lead from the front, inspire, listen, make sure your people and partners know your vision and embrace it. Show drive and determination, show the confidence you have in your people, products and services to win and grow. Know your weaknesses and address them either yourself or with others.

    Focus. Know what you need to do and keep on course, don’t be deflected. Guide your people, listen to their concerns and help them. Empower them to be leaders in their own area of responsibility.

  8. Think – If you don’t allocate time for you and your people to think about your company, about your customers and about your markets you will simply keep doing the same thing year-in, year-out and at best survive. Especially in this current economic climate, that’s not good enough. Creative thinking is needed now more than ever. Whether it’s your products and services that your customers and prospects need, your business models to capture more value effectively, your marketing strategies to attract more opportunities, the deals you make, the relationships you build, the targets you set or any number of aspects of your business you should look at, take time to think.Creative thinking is often seen as a luxury which is sacrificed in favour of managing day-to-day pressures. It is NOT. It is vital to the success of a business and, like now, to its survival.

If things do turn around, if those parts of the economy which are growing continue to do so, if the Euro zone is sorted out and no more countries go bankrupt, if countries start to reduce their debts, if banks start lending, if… then carrying out these 7 things and more will still help make your company stronger which is no bad thing and no waste of time.

Start this today; arrange a time for yourself or with your people and begin this process.

Hope is the positive face of uncertainty. Do not hope that things will turn out fine for you and your business. Make sure it does.

If you need help then contact me…it costs nothing to talk.

If you don’t need help that’s great but if you do then get it and do what you can to protect your business against all this uncertainty.

What advice can you give to help others strengthen their business and eliminate uncertainty? Please share.