401-423-2400 Kristin@Zhivago.com

Carrying on – consciously and courageously

You’ve got a business to run. You’ve got a family to support and customers, employees, and vendors who are depending on you. If you stopped doing what you are doing, your business would die.

As true – and basic – as these statements are, it’s important to say them right now.

Because as we all are trying to do our jobs, we are continually being distracted by the latest “crisis.”

“Look at me! I’m the banking industry! I loaned money to people who couldn’t afford to pay the money back! Now I’m going under! Help! Send me your money – via more taxes – and bail me out!”

“Look at me! I’m the headline of a dying newspaper! My Terrible Thought of the Day is that the economy is shrinking faster than it has in 26 years! Aren’t you glad you now know my Terrible Thought of the Day? Don’t you want more of this, along with your breakfast every morning?”

“Look at me! I’m the stock market! I’m shrinking before your very eyes! What are you going to do? How bad is this going to get?”

As I discussed a few articles back, fear is for sale right now, cheap. It’s on every street corner, every website, every newspaper, and every radio and TV program. If we “buy” it, it will consume us, and render us incapable of fulfilling our responsibilities. We will become ineffective business leaders if we let this literal hurricane of fear tear us away from what we must do every day.

More than just our businesses are at stake. Here’s another one of those basic truths: If we aren’t being effective, the economy will really tank.

Why? Because we are the money engine, pure and simple. The money used by the government to bail out failing businesses and create government jobs doesn’t just come raining down out of the sky. Nope. It comes from us.

There is no other source.

More specifically, it comes from us giving our customers what they want and making it easy for them to buy from us. We provide something they value, and they give us money. That money can then be used to support our families, pay our employees and vendors so they can support their families, and inevitably, pay taxes.

The value we provide is what creates wealth from scratch. It creates “something” from “nothing,” and then that “something” is paid for with money. It’s different from inherited wealth, which already existed, or wealth that comes from the manipulation of other wealth. In those cases, no new value is created.

Value is a vague word; I prefer “solution.” Someone has a problem, we offer a solution. That solution came from our own observations, our own thoughts, and our own hard work. It didn’t exist before, and now it does, and now someone is buying it from us.

So, we are the engine. It all starts here. And if we’re distracted by all the negativity and fear, things will only get worse. For us personally and for the economy in general.

If your decisions are driven by fear, you will behave differently than when your decisions are driven by other, more constructive factors, factors that lead to revenue.

One thing that happens when you are driven by fear is that you ignore the present. Your sights are set on some anticipated future that doesn’t look good. No matter what you are doing, ignoring the present will always get you into trouble. If you are not living in the present, you are out of touch with reality.

People who are fearful are very much removed from the present, and unable to function successfully. My autistic brother can be completely overwhelmed by the anticipation of imagined upcoming unpleasant events. When this happens, he becomes literally paralyzed by fear. He can obsess so intensely about it that nothing can be done to calm him except to drastically change the situation – and the sooner, the better. Only by changing the situation is he completely convinced that the imagined unpleasant event has no chance of occurring.

Those of us running a business don’t have the luxury of a “big sister” who can remove us from the situation that is causing us stress. The source of our fear is not going away. We will have to succeed in spite of the fear. We will have to overcome the fear.

More than any other time in our lifetimes, this is our moment. While this may not have been what you had planned for this stage in your life, the truth is, this is the kind of time that calls for a new level of consciousness and courage. It’s one of those times when we all have to rise above what we are “feeling” – as in, tired and afraid – and find new sources of energy.

The CEOs I’m working with are finding this to be a particularly challenging time, but because they are staying focused on their customers, they are doing better than CEOs who are allowing themselves to get distracted by events. The focused CEOs are intensely conscious of what they need to do to keep their business growing, and they are just as intensely focused on meeting customer needs.

In any economic storm, there is always a lifeline. That lifeline is “what your customers need from you.” Your ability to meet those needs will determine your success, more than any other event or trend.

When your customers visit your website or contact your company, what are their expectations? What do they hope will happen? Do you know? Have you ever written them down?

Are their expectations met? Or, does your website or do your people fall short of the ideal? Does the website help them understand what you are selling and give them confidence that you will provide it, or do they visit, get confused, and leave?

When customers contact your company via email, webform, or phone, does someone respond immediately? Or, as in most cases with webforms, not at all? Do your salespeople answer the question asked, or just recite some other boilerplate answer, failing to solve the customer’s problem?

One way to shift from fear mode to revenue-generation mode is to make a list of all the expectations your customers have about your company, products, and services. You might as well toss in some “industry” expectations, as well. As in, “Airline industry: Planes stay in the air until it’s time to land.” “Food industry: The food doesn’t make you sick.” These are baseline expectations, and every industry has them.

Then itemize the things that people expect from your company, products, and services, and, if you’re really courageous, send that list to your top customers and ask them to rate you on those promises, on a scale of 1 – 10. Their answers will tell you what you do well – and should promote. And, what you should be fixing.

Once you’ve improved something, send an email to those same customers and tell them what you did and how you did it. Thank them for their input.

They will tell others that you asked for their help and then acted on their advice. People love telling other people this kind of story, and it can only lead to new business for you.

One last thought about fear. One trick that works really well, when you think that the world – or your own world, even – is going to hell in a handbasket, is to just start appreciating what is going right at any given moment.

Thank the next person who walks into your office. Thank your spouse for being such a good friend. Thank your customers for buying from you. Be thankful for your fingers, typing on your keyboard. It can be that simple, but it’s a powerful, mind-altering, revenue-producing exercise that will immediately remove you from the clutches of the fear mongers.

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