1. Understand the 10-Year Business Cycle

First, it’s important to understand the concept of the 10-year business cycle. In this cycle, you’ll have two great years, six good years, and two terrible years that will potentially put you out of business. We’re experiencing the two terrible years right now. If you go back and do your homework, you’ll find that this cycle has held true to form for the last three decades.

The take-a-way here is that you should never be surprised by a downturn, and you must always be prepared for a hit to revenue. As in the current terrible year event, businesses are seeing 30, 40, 50, 100% of their revenue disappear literally overnight.

I’ve heard some pundits say we’ll never see this again in our lifetime. Other than that being a level of arrogance I don’t understand, if you’re surprised by the next one, shame on you. Whether it’s a recession, virus, 9/11, war, or who knows what, it’s coming. This is the third major crisis I’ve seen in my lifetime and I lost everything in one of them. It changed the way I live since in every respect. COVID-19 is going to do the same thing. It will change everything.

2. Shift Your Mindset.

You need to shift your thinking in two ways.

  • First, understand that you’re in survival mode and the first priority is save the organization. Among the biggest mistakes business owners and leaders make in tough times are trying to hang onto everything, not letting go of the past, and getting way too emotional. Every decision has to be for the greater good. Your business has a purpose and a vision that must lead your decisions. If there’s no organization at the end of all of this, then there’s no place for people to come back to and the mission and vision will not be accomplished.
  • Second, you must shift your mindset. I’m not a scientist, so I’m not going to teach you how the human brain works. However, you have to shift your brain’s primal fear-based, fight-or-flight mode (the amygdala) to critical thinking and solution mode (the frontal lobe). You must get out of being scared and move forward into solution mode.

Start by thinking through the worst-case scenario. Confirm that you can survive it. Put a plan in place that even if organization is going to lose significant revenue, you can still survive. Once your crisis plan is in place, share it with everyone involved and get to work.

You may even have to completely reinvent yourself in case the need for what you do, or the way you do it, has completely evaporated. You must now look at what you were originally created to do and pursue opportunities in that sweet spot. If you’re going to lose the kind of revenue I’m using as an example, then shifting your mindset is a mandate. It might mean layoffs, furloughs, expense cuts, etc, which means that if you’ve ever had to set your ego aside, now’s the time. Simply going back to the organizational structure that worked before may never work again.

4. Get Close to Your Customers & Clients.

Now’s the time to know your customers and clients even better than you know yourself. Make sure you know their every need and that you’re providing tremendous value. Make yourself irreplaceable, even if it’s simply being a counselor or trusted advisor. This will help your organization evolve, adapt and pivot quickly in real time to both your internal and external environments.

5. Manage Your Energy

It’s one thing to isolate yourself. It’s quite another to make sure you’re talking to a lot of people in all aspects of your life. Be a beacon of hope and light. Help them, listen to them. This ironically will lift your spirit and your energy. I’ve always felt that the answer to most anything is to serve others. You’d be surprised by the great ideas and insights that might come from shifting your mindset away from your own isolation. Don’t be sitting around watching the news and listening to pundits, who are incorrect the majority of the time. It will literally wear you out by sucking all of the energy out of you.

6. Stay Positive

If you’re sitting around complaining because you don’t agree with the decisions our country’s leaders are making right now, here’s the reality. Human beings are inherently incapable of being completely satisfied with anything, meaning we’re inherently negative. As the leader of an organization, your job is not to bemoan the current state, but to capitalize upon it. Whichever side of the aisle you reside with, you have to move forward and play the hand you’ve been dealt. Focus on what is within your control. If you really feel you can change something, then do it. But if not, complaining about it to friends, family, and co-workers isn’t going to save the organization. Be at your absolute best. You owe it to your people. People are looking for a strong leader in these times, and that needs to be you. As the leader, you must be a realistic optimist.

Above all, stay focused! Whatever else you do, stay focused!

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