Recessions are a natural part of business ups and downs. Good times are generally followed by slower times. Since 1991, out economy has been on an expansion except for several short slowdowns. We now find ourselves in a different spot and many folks are anxious. Let’s add some perspectives and focus on results.
1. Look at the numbers and compare where you now are to past years. Funny, in my networking groups the contractors who were making $50,000 profit and now are making $100,000 are tickled pink. Some of the folks who made $600,000 but now are going to make $300,000 want to slit their wrists. If you’ve been in business 10 years, pull out an old statement and compare the two. Things may not be as bad as you think. Evaluating your success by keeping a profit score is a dangerous practice. Every year does not have to be bigger and better.
2. Avoid other contractors and old geezers who just want to bitch and moan. Stop complaining about politics and blaming the government. I am not telling you not to be politically active and I am not telling you not to try to influence the political process. What I am telling you is quit wasting energy complaining about it. Put that energy into positive action. Have the wisdom to know what you can control and what you cannot and focus on what you can. Blaming a third factor about what is wrong with your business is just another form of denial.
3. Be a good leader. Your employees are looking for direction and solutions. If you have to cut wages to compete, be fair and do it. If you have to move a manager back into the field, be a leader and do it. People are looking for leadership, not buddies. If you are lonely and need constant love and affection in your life, buy a dog. Leadership is influencing others to accomplish goals. Set new priorities and work to succeed at them.
4. Focus on things you enjoy in your business that increase profit. Too many business owners who were great production or salespeople convince themselves they should make money by sitting in the office pushing paper - a job they hate. You make money through sales and production. Get back into the game. Your company needs you.
5. Realize business is not forgiving. Your competitor who is struggling to stay alive really is not impressed with the quality award or contractor of the year designation you received. Be careful of believing your own press. Business is judged by what you do each and every day.
6. Adapt but continue to enjoy your business. I run our networking groups at the same hotel. They usually assign me the same banquet staff. Most are happy, glad to see me, enjoy their work, smile and appear to enjoy life. I also see them in the rain or snow waiting for the bus. They cheerfully wave but generally refuse a ride from me. OK, maybe you won’t make as much this year but adapt and enjoy what you do.
7. Avoid denial. There is a thin line between denial and optimism. Denial is avoidance. Optimism is working on a plan or goal that has a meaningful chance to work.
8. Don’t make any big mistakes. In good times, recovery from a bad job is difficult. In slower times, it can kill the business. Be careful of jobs that are not funded well or general contractors you have not worked for. Don’t let the lack of sales make you take a job that you will never get paid for.
9. Avoid the magic employee, salesperson or product. This does not mean there are not good people out there, but being skeptical is wise. Check credit and background references. New products take energy and capital to launch.
10. Deal with enabled employees. Clearly lay out what they have to do to succeed. Ask them to do it. Lay out clear terms for continued employment. If they don’t comply, fire them. The longer they been with you, the better. Why? Well, it sends the message that you mean business and you are going to move forward. Just make sure you are fair and the termination was justified.
11. Help someone else. Nothing better than seeing someone else struggling to get you to see that you do not have it all that bad. Go to your local veterans’ hospital and visit with the people with no arms or legs. Really, it is not as bad as you think. Even if you go broke, it is not like someone is going to eat you or something.
12. Find and put some balance in your life. There is nothing like a hug from your kid or grandchild to put things in perspective. Go see your Mom or Dad. No one close to you to interact with? Well, maybe that should tell you something. In fact, I had this article to write and I took a snowbound weekend morning to do it, but I have a five year old granddaughter I promised a sleigh ride and I have to make time for that.
In closing, successful people get done what is important. They don’t spend all their time complaining. Figure out what is important. Stay focused on it. Go do it.