By: Jim Fannin
Chaos. Uncertainty. Confusion. Bedlam. Doubt. Negativity. Instability. Unpredictable. These words reflect the thoughts of many businessmen and women in today’s vast marketplace. What does one do to secure profits in uncertain times?
A positive attitude is not a panacea for your exports and imports, fierce competition, shrinking margins and higher costs. But it’s a start and it definitely helps. Even with extreme optimism you can still struggle to overcome depression, anxiety and fear when scouring your P/L statement.
You need more business. You need to hold costs. You need loyal and productive team members. You need to focus on today with an eye on the future.
Now unhinge your jaw, breathe, relax and review the following 15 tips to swim like a business champion in a turbulent sea of uncertainty.
- Think. Carve out some regular free time to think, ponder and solve challenges. Get alone and clear your mind. No phone or email. No interruptions. Think solutions. Finally, gather your inner circle to help plot your future and think with you. Think out of the box. “What can we do to capture more market share?” Zero in on key challenges. After imagination and creative dissipate to reality, choose a few directions and focus on them. Assign ownership with deadlines.
- Dig main income streams deeper and wider. This is a basic. Keep an eye on creating new streams of profitability but don’t dismiss your core income stream. Deal from strength. If viable, get back to the product and service basics that your company was founded. Upgrade your best products and or services.
- Circle the wagons around your best customers. All customers matter but start with your best. Contact them. Visit them. Reach out to them and offer them something for nothing. It doesn’t have to cost money. Throw them a bone. Loyalty in uncertain times is a must. Be loyal to them and they will return the favor.
- Know your best customers. Ask about their future and ascertain their goals, challenges and major concerns. Mentally invest in their dreams. Become their partner in helping them make more money.
- Improve internal communication. Create (if not already) a weekly internal e-letter that espouses the company’s values and successes. This 1-2 page missive can have birthdays and anniversaries if your company is small. This “Inner Voice” communiqué (if consistent) will bolster pride and employee loyalty. The individuals in your company want to be an integral part of something greater than his or herself.
- Maximize all processes. Implement or shore up your processes for sales, customer service, hiring, firing, internal communication, etc. Do you have the “XYZ Company” Way?
- Customer experience is more important than ever. Follow your prospective customer through the entire customer relationship experience. Your customers might be having chaos and uncertainty as well, so make your relationship a seamless, easy experience. See from their eyes. Feel what they feel. Do not take this for granted.
- The leader needs to lead. Inspire your team to a place they won’t or can’t go by themselves. Divide and conquer works here. Conduct 30-45 minute, one-on-one meetings with each key employee. Ascertain their hopes and fears. Ask their unfiltered opinion on macro subjects that impact the bottom line. Give each an important assignment (with stringent deadline) that will impact the whole.
- Upgrade your work culture. Add civility and a champion attitude to your workplace. Eliminate the word “problem” and replace it with “challenge.” Purge your company of negative body language and words. Reward the champion attitude. Help eliminate the victim and the judge mentality. Avoid politics, religion and other topics. Hire a coach or bring in a positive speaker.
- Create “special ops teams.” Have an odd total of team members (3,5,7) independently search for solutions to company challenges. These special ops teams can have a cross section of employees from different departments. They meet when they choose and select their own leader. A reporting deadline is set and they deliver a written recommendation for positive change.
- Pick a fight. Instead of focusing on your challenges and concerns, focus on crushing your competition in terms of market share, client acquisition, and profitability. This especially works when a company is having internal conflict and low optimism. Get your team to rally around this external challenge.
- Foster decision-making. Mandate that if you have a problem challenge that you would like to bring to your boss, only walk it in with at least one viable solution. If the challenge arrives without a solution dismiss the person and have them return with one.
- Stress runs downhill. Create a 90-day plan and push it downstream. Macro-manage your company and stay out of the things that don’t serve you. Provide directives with well-defined guidelines and deadlines. Hold each person accountable. Be decisive. Leave business at work. When you go home, fully engage with your family. Taking negative stress home just adds to your family’s stress. Control your breathing below 15-17 breaths per minute. Set your phone several times a day to remind you to breathe and relax. When you slow down you’ll think more clearly.
- Empower your team. Write the responsibilities, accountability and authority for each direct report and have them write up their own. These are the three legs of empowerment. Review them with your direct reports and have them do the same. Compare their list to what you think. Push this downstream.
- Be the leader your team needs. In uncertain times your team needs a beacon of hope. Be active in your industry and learn and share with your team. Walk through your company offices and or factory and make eye contact with all you meet. Call each person by name. Ask questions. Give praise where it’s warranted. Ask how each person is doing personally. Engage!
We are in uncertain times. Get disciplined. Narrow your focus. Renew your confidence and optimism. Relax. Love what you do and do what you love.
Get your team in the Zone.
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