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Taking Stock of a Bad Situation

“Taking Stock of a Bad Situation”

When things go wrong with your company or your work, it’s important to take care of yourself. Important advice for dealing with bad situations.

When times get tough, pay attention to what really counts — YOURSELF!

Your company is in trouble. Sales are down. You’re seeing losses for the first time in years.

A couple of projects are in trouble.

Your banker is asking to see you once a month. Before, he maybe saw you once a year.

Your bonding company is talking about reducing your line, and you wonder if they really mean they’re going to take all of it away from you.

A couple of key people have left, and the rest of your organization is feeling lost and demotivated as a result.

Some of your best clients are rumbling that things aren’t as good as they used to be.

You’re afraid that, no matter what you do, things are just going to get worse. You’re starting to wonder if this won’t spell the end.

Believe it or not, lots of us have faced this same situation. Not everyone survived, but many did. And the difference between those who made it and those who didn’t can teach a lot.

My experience has shown that leaders of successful companies seem to have something in common when times get tough. It isn’t education. It isn’t any particular ability in finance, marketing — nothing like that. It is, instead, a personal characteristic that seems to set them apart. They did something unusual:


Surprisingly, when everything seemed to be coming down around their heads, when there were so many things demanding their attention, they stopped and took care of themselves before they worried about anything else. They made sure they were in good shape before they tried to get their company in good shape.

Why? Take a look at this list of key ingredients to watch for in yourself when times are really tough. If one of these is missing or in short supply, work on it first.

1. Keep your confidence.
The hardest thing to do in a bad situation is keep a level head. But you must. If you don’t, the rest of your company will reflect your attitude. If you’re panicking, so will they. If you’re feeling frustrated, so will they.

Likewise, if you feel confident of eventual success, so will they. You are going to need creative, hard-working people supporting you and your ideas. Don’t let them think they (or you) have failed before they start.

2. Communicate.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t tell our people much when things are going well. That just makes it more difficult to tell them when things are going badly. But you owe it to yourself to do just that.

As the leader of your organization, you always have to carry a silent burden. In bad times it can become overwhelming. Don’t let it. Tell your people — at least your key people — what you are facing; — they are facing it, too. Besides, they probably have some ideas about what to do. If they don’t know there’s a problem, they can’t help solve it.

3. Stop and Think.
Sometimes it seems that the harder we work, the less we get done. This can be especially true in bad times; your confidence is already being attacked. You are probably trying to juggle more during the day than you ever had to before. And it just seems as if you should put in more time to do everything that needs to get done.

The problem is that you may not be doing what needs to get done. You may not even know what needs to be done. Don’t spin your wheels. Figure out those few things that will really help the situation. Figure out what you have the energy and time to do. The only way that will happen is if you stop to think.

4. Get Some Rest.
The best advice in the world may seem strange — but take some time off. If you’re like most of us, you probably work all the time: long days, work on weekends, few (if any) vacations. Now is the time you must relax. If you don’t, you won’t be able to think. If you can’t think — and think creatively — you won’t be able to solve your problems. Strange as it may seem, some of the best time off you can spend may be the time you think you can least afford.

Think of it this way: How many times have you had a problem you just didn’t seem able to solve? Then, after a night’s sleep, in the middle of a TV program, or at some other time you least expected, you had a flash of insight, and the answer just came to you? That was your subconscious at work. That was your hidden computer. And it happened because you took the time to rest — you stopped overloading your circuits.

5. Believe in Yourself.
This can be extraordinarily difficult. We all have self-doubts at one time or another. However, when times are really tough, self-doubt can become a destructive whirlwind.

Overcoming this — maintaining a strong ego, if you will — is essential to your success. The biggest advantage you have here is that you probably already have a strong ego, a strong belief in yourself. To run a business, you have to have this talent as a basic part of your makeup. So remember your belief in yourself, and hang on to it.

6. Use Your Advisors.
You don’t have any? Of course you do — whether you want them or not. They are your bankers, stockholders, employees, family, suppliers, accountants, friends, and anyone else who has a stake in you or your company. Their stake may be monetary, or it may be emotional. But it’s a real stake.

Any anyone who has a stake or an investment in anything is going to work to protect it. It is amazing what people will do when they are involved. Do you think that bankers work out delayed-payment schedules just for major international companies? Do you think that only another company’s employees would work to help out in bad times? Sometimes our assumptions about others can be our worst enemy.

Somewhere you have a group of advisors who will work with you. No single one of them may be able to solve your problems, but they may be able to help a little. And sometimes that’s all we need.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the common thread by now — each one of these points will help you maintain your perspective. As the leader of your company, you must do this. Only if you maintain perspective can you determine what needs to be done. Only if you maintain perspective can you decide if you face a financial crisis, a marketing crisis, an inventory problem, or one combination of all of those and more. Only if you maintain your perspective can you determine what all the pieces are and how they fit together.

Before you can solve your problems, you must determine what they are. Before you can do that, you must be able to see the entire forest — not just the trees in front of you right now; not just the pressing issue of the moment. To be able to do that, you need perspective.

Easy to say, but difficult to do. And even though it all has to come from you , make sure you use other people. They can help you develop and maintain your sense of perspective.

So, take care of yourself. This is the only way you will have the strength, wisdom, and courage to manage your problems. Benefit your business, and take care of your people.

About the Writer: Frederick M. Furland is a nationally-recognized speaker and consultant. He focuses his efforts on the two faces of productivity enhancement: obstacle recognition and productivity improvement. His experience as a manager and as a consultant give him the ability to discover and recommend solutions to the problems that face organizations in today’s fast-changing world. This article was originally published in the 5th Anniversary Edition of Entrepreneurial Edge.

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