Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Advice for tough times

At year's end, we get to hear many versions of 'the year end roundup'.

Most of the reviews this year are just awful, no matter what perspective the assessment is being done from. Rightly so. I've lived through many recessions and run businesses through recessions since the mid 1970s. This one came on faster and more comprehensively than anything I have ever seen.

When I talk to peers in the small business world, the talk isn't about the usual stuff; it's about how much debt they are carrying. There are bad stories everywhere, but there are also some really cool owners who smile and say, 'We've got no debt'. Their ability to get out of bed in the morning is significantly better than those hauling debt uphill. Debt has its place. A big part of this recession will be to teach our economy (yet again) to define the proper role of debt in business creation and expansion.

Another set of great ideas came across my desk in a short, succinct piece from Tom Peters called 'Advice for tough times….', dated November 17, 2008.

If you've read any of these posts from the past you'll know I'm a huge fan of Tom Peters, the author of 'In Search of Excellence' and many other classics. One of my proudest accomplishments is to have this blog linked from Tom Peters' site.

Tom's 'Advice for tough times.…' included just 6 short points which I'll post below.

"1. Excellence. Get on with doing the business you have and see it through brilliantly. Keep it simple. The devil is always in the details.

2. Opportunism -- there may be a lot of room for it -- will pay off through speed off the mark and excellence in execution.

3. Visibility. March toward the sound of the guns. MBWA (manage by walking around) People have to see who they are working for (with) and who they are dealing with.

4. Transparency. Be absolutely straight with people, especially those at the front line. [My comment: Entrepreneurs - this means being straight with YOURSELF as well. You ARE the front line.]

5. Demeanor. Banish 'gloomy' from your persona, even if it kills you! But remember, 'sunny' is pretty stupid, too. Who do you think you are kidding?

6. Paradox. Have a Positive Mental Attitude AND be ready for the worst."

As a small business person and entrepreneur who has fought through these miserable spells in the past, I can honestly and enthusiastically agree with all of these points.

To run a small business through a recession requires that you act and execute professionally. Entrepreneurship is a profession and you need to treat it accordingly.

Excellence in execution, done with brilliance and passion. March toward the sound of the guns. Bring real solutions to real problems. Truth and transparency with all stakeholders. Keep moving forward but keep your powder dry.

2009 will be a challenge. It will also offer opportunities.

If you have a small business or want to become an entrepreneur, I can't offer any better advice than Tom Peters is sharing.

If you are realistic and honest with yourself and others, you can start your own business in this miserable economy. Not only 'you can' but 'you should'. Recessions typically last 1-2 years. The times between them vary but every 3-7 years is realistic. The right kind of sustainable enterprise can give you more security now (if only in peace of mind) and in the future when this kind of mess boils up again.

Happy New Year, friend! Go get it!

Tom Peters site.

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