During interesting times I find it best to take a break from the news to rebalance my perspective on what is truly significant. Headlines tout that states are up to their eyeballs in debt and continuing “tax and spend” policies while countries teeter on the brink of default. Thankfully, these events have an indirect impact on most US businesses. But if we let our anxiety about what might come to pass in the future cloud how we behave in the present, greater impact will be felt. A clouded mindset can paralyze an organization by overstating risk and resisting change. Here are three suggestions for thriving when times get tough:
Don’t take your eye off the ball. There are two elements to this point. The first is to fully commit yourself to the plan you have today and be intentional about achieving your goals. Employees look to leadership during times of uncertainty. Make it clear that the goals are intact. Secondly, stay close to your customers and have clear measures for identifying a looming change that might need factoring into your plan.
Don’t lose your edge. In addition to remaining committed to the plan, keep your organization accountable. Let employees know that deadlines and objectives count and recognize efforts that support the goals. Companies that can further differentiate themselves from the competition will thrive in difficult times. If you are uncertain about which initiatives customers will value, make finding out another aspect of staying close to them. Foster innovation by challenging employees for ideas on how to grow these differentiators. Inviting employees to innovate keeps them involved.
Take the offensive with your legislators. We live in a time when government spending is having an increasing impact on the economy. Make it clear to legislators which appropriations should have priority and what level of spending you feel is sustainable. If you are having difficulty finding skilled talent, raising capital for a critical, or have a new venture idea in search of funding, let them know that too. I am working with New Haven Manufacturers Association and Connecticut Business and Industry Association to sponsor a local event where business can exchange feedback with their state representatives. I invite you to get involved.
These points may seem obvious. Yet, most of executives I meet immerse themselves in reactive tasks and spend less than 5% of their time actually growing their business. As always, feel free to comment on tactics you use to keep your edge. Contact me if you need help getting started with these initiatives.
2 thoughts on “Three Strategies to Cope with Uncertainty”
That’s a curious proportion of % 5 for growth vs. 95 for maintenance, still average growth is hovering about 3 %. Is there any general relationship between growth and time/ money outlay for growth? What out of the slew of variables (time, money, education…) makes the impact? Who analyzed these?
I think you are misunderstanding my point. The 5% is a time management measure and the question is much time managers spend planning growth strategies and executing new initiatives as opposed to reacting to every day tasks. For an established business with more that 25 employees, a number of 20% would be exceptional for a manager. Five percent would be problematic. For a startup like yours, 5% may be just fine.
Acceptable growth rate for a company depends on where it is in the life cycle. A reasonable goal for a startup would be 20-25%.
Hope this helps,