First Things First in Turbulence and Crisis

Here are three things you need to do when things shift again

Yesterday as I was coaching a senior executive, we got into the business side of the corona virus. She asked me what I’d learned running businesses during a large-scale crisis like SARS.

It became a conversation to answer this question: what can and must we do as leaders to keep our businesses alive during such times? If you are an entrepreneur or an executive responsible for P&L, read on. This is for you.

Image credit: Brian McGovan

Step 1: Refocus the Fear

Focusing on fear is not the answer. Yes, it must be acknowledged. Yes, respect it. Yes, follow recommended medical-hygiene practices—but then focus on the opportunities inevitably sparked by a crisis.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships by helping your customers or suppliers through a tough moment. Cash flow is going to be an issue, with cancellations and delays. Your leadership role is to promote patience and solidarity. Immediate results include loyalty and reciprocal support.

It’s an opportunity to reassure your people that their roles (and thus their income) are stable. Help them stay calm about that, so they can be present and productive.

It’s an opportunity to do those important things that your business has been too busy to pay attention to. It’s time to look at those transformation projects and, while ordinary operations might be in a lull, put the energy, bandwidth, and capacity that is now available to good use.

Step 2: Find the Silver Lining

When the new version of the corona virus started to rise and the first signs of it showed up in Singapore, the city where I live, I put into play what I’d learned running a practice with PwC.

I looked at my lines of business and put them into two buckets.

Bucket 1: Services likely to be affected because they rely on face-to-face interaction. Into this bucket went our Unicorning Workshops and keynote speeches. In the last two weeks, I’ve had 20% of this year’s bookings delayed or cancelled.

Bucket 2: Things that, happily, happen in another plane, such as our scaling and toolkit services, coaching, and virtual workshops. I put my energy and action into those three opportunities.

The result: an agreement with one client to accelerate the development of a set of products that will enable her business to scale to $100 million. We’ve worked out a pace for product development and licensing and for a payment plan that makes sense, given the realities of her client’s corona-influenced cash flow and the value that these products will bring to them.

What could have looked like collapse is actually a multi-million-dollar opportunity.

Which brings me to the third concept my senior executive and I focused on.

Step 3: Keep The Lights On

The truth is, it’s likely to be financially tough for a while. Once peak SARS was past and the re-infection rate had dropped, it took over six months for the animal spirits of business to recover. The leadership challenge today is to manage both mind and money.

Manage mind first.

When our mind is present and free of fear, we can find opportunities. These create new data and contexts for the very practical decisions you’ll need to make to keep the lights on.

Keeping the lights on (KTLO) is as much about making sure your business mission in the world is preserved as it is about cash. Cutting corners or acting in ways that undermine your values is costly in the long run. The price you’ll pay for hasty, bad decisions that don’t reflect who you are could outlast this year’s corona virus by a long time.

Work through your budget, the cash flow forecasts, and the new opportunities that can be created. Make the changes you need to.

Corona will pass. And in the meantime, keep the good you’ve done in finding silver linings and refocusing fear. They are the investments that will enrich and grow your business, your team, and your mission.

Joanne Flinn ~ The Business Growth Lady

If you are a mission-driven entrepreneur or executive with P&L responsibility, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

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