Here is the first thing I want to candidly tell all of you reading this article upfront – don’t know what is ahead and what is in store. And if anyone tells you otherwise, well there is a word called kite flying which more aptly sums their prediction. Even with that uncertainty, there are few things I am clear about what needs to be done. I am sharing it and more than happy to hear inputs and perspectives that add to it or tune it where it’s off the mark. Bring it on!!!
Survive first and foremost
It is the Darwinian theory at work. When the climate changed it did not matter whether you were massive, powerful or small. Carnivorous or not. All that mattered was one’s ability to adapt and survive. Your business needs to survive this period and what evolutionary process does if you do that is to make you resilient and stronger. Good for the up curve that usually follows. You will take a few hits – clients going, some employees leaving, tough decisions that portray you not well, having to be firm on payment receipts that sour relationships, etc. Be prepared and take those hits. Just ensure they are not crippling body blows but just injuries that heal with time. Like they say focus on staying alive and living to fight another day.
Assume the worst and plan for it
If data and extrapolation tell you revenues will drop by 30% prepare for 50-60%. If payment collections are estimated to fall by 40% make that 60%. It’s not about optimism or lack of a positive attitude. It is just the clarity that pragmatism with a tinge of conservatism needs to prevail. Keep reserves and alternatives for the worst scenario and ensure those are tangible and realistic. It saves you the blushes later particularly when things go worse than predicted.
Focus on the core
Be it employees or clients or partners there are few of them who are critical to your firm/business in this period. Identify them as quickly as possible and as accurately as possible. This is something really makes or breaks most businesses in tough stretches. Then bring your utmost focus and engagement to those in this circle or category. Not that you leave others in the lurch exactly but ensure they are given that additional attention and investment.
Don’t leave any doors or windows untouched
Most professionals who get into this trip are all is down and out. And shrinking is the natural option. Just remember revenue is like bleeding. How much ever you cut expenses at some point either you need to stop bleeding or infuse new blood. Here be the reverse in your approach and attitude. Be relentless like a hunter on a mission. Be hungry. Don’t leave any single door or window unchecked and unopened. Not that you will find any of them easily or on opening, you will find a treasure. There will be more disappointments than wins but don’t give up. Keep pushing.
Be pushy but in a measured way and just don’t just lose it
This is not the time to earn your glowing what a nice leader you are badges. The times are really hard and you need everyone inside, on the deck, doing their best in their roles for the ship to survive the biggest storm it has faced ever in its journey. It means pushing the teams inside but just ensure you just don’t lose it. Pull back before it gets out of control. Different people in the team have different breakpoints just factor that. Unless you are blessed with teams across who have ownership and take this upon themselves. Skip this point if that’s the case in your firm.
Take it one day at a time
All said and one as driving through the densest fogs in the world will teach you, you can navigate through it if you go feet by feet meter by meter, carefully. You need not have seen the curve ahead or know how long is the hazy stretch. Take it similarly in your business. Tune as things evolve and become visible or clearer.
What I have personally learnt or observed is that there are many inherent conflicts and contradictions these situations throw up. They are not of your making. Don’t get into any trip or allow anyone around you too. Be level headed and accept these things as they are. You as the captain of the ship cannot afford to get distracted of the storm the ship is passing through. Keep sailing, don’t allow too much water to wash onboard and ensure all your teams are on the deck and doing what they are supposed to, well. Being stoic also allows you to take the hits or the twists better.
Understand all of us are human beings and there will be moments in spite of all of this where you feel like throwing in the towel. It is par for the course and not strange. Allow those moments to pass through as quickly as possible and keep getting up to fight. One day, another day and then another. And then you see the light streaming in. pat yourself on the back and take the time to enjoy that moment and move onto prepare yourself for the growth curve that usually follows. Love that phrase – “This too shall pass.”
This article was contributed to and first published in Business World.