A Lighthouse in the Storm
During economic downturns, staying focused on a clear vision and staying on course is like having a lighthouse to guide us through the rocky, choppy waters of a fierce storm. Unfortunately, fear of loss can spark irrational, knee jerk reactions such as risk avoidance, hasty entry into markets outside of your core focus and shortsighted cost saving initiatives. So, how do we stay focused on the future so that we continue forward momentum toward having the kind of companies that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, describe in their book, as Built to Last?
In their book, Collins and Porras studied 1000 CEOs and found that companies that have thrived for 150 to 200 years were absolutely clear and focused on why they exist, what was their niche, where they were going long-term, and they had a good picture of what it would look like when they reached that long-term goal. Because of their long-term view, they anticipated storms along the way and stayed focused on their vision in the midst of the storms when they came.
These legacy companies resisted the temptation to stall or halt any of their core processes that were working to propel their vision and make them more manageable, scalable and profitable organizations. They refused to stop taking time to work “on” their business when the temptation is there to increase time “in” the business because of hard times. These leaders knew that these were the very disciplines that would get them through the downturn, and they came out of the other side of the storm better, faster and stronger.
Don’t Abandon the Foundation!
The Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) gives you the foundational tools (Accountability Chart, Rocks, Meeting Pulse and Scorecard). When you add a clear and compelling vision to that foundation of discipline and real accountability, your organization will not only take off, but a continual focus on that discipline and accountability will provide long-term sustainable, scalable, manageable and profitable growth.
The key is focus! Once you’ve discovered and can clearly articulate your Core Focus™, the intersection between why you exist (Purpose/Cause/Passion) and what you do best (Niche), the priority is to stay laser-focused on it, while avoiding distracting, shiny opportunities as well as temptations to divert from your course during these upsetting economic downturns. This focus has the potential to get you through the storm looking better than when you entered it.
Envision a Bright Future During the Storm!
A clear vision keeps you focused on the future because it allows you to set your goals with the “end in mind,” as Stephen Covey so wisely said. Then, you can use those goals, just as travelers have used the Northstar to navigate, to guide your path forward, even in the midst of recessions that can bring temptation to “batten down the hatches.”
In addition to containing risk and managing your P&L, it’s super important to continue preparing the business for a brighter future. When you’re thinking about cost-saving measures to survive the storm, you’ve got to ask yourself, “If all I do is try to save costs today to survive, without focusing on healthy, sustainable growth, where will we be when we come out of this downturn?” Don’t just think short-term. If you just remain flat and survive, will you be prepared when the economy rebounds? Will your people get discouraged and jump ship when they do not see the vision progressing?
Protect Your Culture!
Focusing on your vision and your disciplines will also protect your culture, the very heart of your organization. Organizations that have protected their culture during recessions, and have stayed focused on the disciplines that give them Traction®, have proven that their core values and culture remained intact, in contrast with those that abandoned them during crisis. Reconsider canceling some of your morale building company events because money is tight so that you don’t eliminate some of the very initiatives that made your company what it is today.
Even if the leadership team and upper management have to take slight reductions in pay for a season, it will be worth it in the end. I remember one leadership team of a sizable manufacturing plant that decided all upper management would take slight pay cuts during a recession so that everyone, who made $50,000.00 or less annually, would maintain their pay and their jobs! This gesture and commitment to those families showed their dedication to the long-term vision and secured those employees’ commitment to the vision.
What will you do when the going gets tough?
Samuel Kniseley Ballesteros is Principal of The Advantage Solution, LLC, a business coaching firm that helps people get what they want from their businesses.