I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ´Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
(Leonardo da Vinci)
Submitted by: Juan P. Rodriguez
January of 2016 will be remembered as a year full of surprises from the very beginning. Some of these surprises were good but unfortunately many of them were not so good.
In the financial arena, the world witnessed the Shanghai Composite´s destruction of billions in wealth with the worst start to year in history, price of oil lurking at the low $30s mark, slashes of Q4 GDP forecast for the US by major Wall Street´s players, Hong Kong´s housing bubble suffering collapse, Brazil deepening into a depression, Venezuela showing signs of very near future default and current hyperinflation, finishing above 180% inflation rate last year and well on the way for an astonishing 720% inflation rate for this year , Argentina not far behind and so on and so forth.
In the realm of geopolitical affairs, tensions are high at the Syrian theater, maritime tensions between the US and China at the South China Sea, North Korea flexing their muscles with (supposedly) first level weapons, and the Middle East ready to ignite at any second.
Also new for this year in the health category, humanity now has to worry about the Zika Virus. It seems that even the Olympics´ taking place in Brazil this year, the most important athletics event in the world, is in question now.
And finally, as per society goes, newcomers for this year´s top 20 most violent cities around the world (according to the Mexico Citizens Council for Public Security) are two US cities, St. Louis in 15th place and Baltimore in the 19th place. Caracas remains the top most violent city around the world and Brazilian cities amounts for 21 of the top 50 most violent cities around the world. In Europe there is rampant violence and protests, significant increases in rape victims and social unrest primarily caused by Middle Eastern refugees as a consequence of EU´s immigration policy and the west´s foreign policy.
As this post is published, we are just starting February and because of this, we have 11 months of 2016 ahead of us that we can see as opportunity rather than an uphill ordeal. So, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, and probably business owners, a very important question should come up in our minds: how should we navigate around a messy world and stay the course in order to reach our goals? We should even go further and ask how can we thrive during these messy times and position our company for when times get better?
First and foremost, we should all understand that humanity has already gone through a similar time in its history. Businesses have had to endure hardship in the past. Those that have survived and thrived during these times have done so by making the correct adjustments in their companies in order to adapt to new trends, different customer needs and possibly new overall constraints.
In order for us to come up with a strategy that will get us closer to our goals, we need to focus on a couple of things that will determine the outcome of our company at the end of this turmoil and be ready to reap the benefits of the bonanza wave which will be just forming underneath.
Your company has to be focused just as a laser beam is focused. Make sure everyone in your company understands and shares your vision. Make sure to have very clear goals as well as metrics. Empower all company´s personnel on some level of decision making and make all of them accountable for their responsibilities, as limited as these might be. Have your company´s metrics visible to all personnel to serve as a guide and motivational tool.
Trimming off the fat
Just as we strive to burn off the fat from our belly in order to be healthier and more capable to endure physical activities; our companies have to trim off excesses in operational expenses, human resources and fruitless activities that use up resources ineffectively. This does not mean cutting corners, this just means that the company operates in the leanest possible manner as it meets and exceeds customer´s expectations.
Adapting to new market trends
Different times bring with them different needs. As market trends shift, products or services that use to be highly profitable might not still be under new market trends. In fact, it´s possible to have that market vanish as a whole. Make sure your company´s goals are aligned with the current or near future market trends and look for those new trends in the horizon and position yourself to benefit from their untapped potential.
Loyalty to your customer base
Remember that without your customers, your business is worthless. Also remember that your customer base does not owe you anything (in a moral sense that is). Everyone in your company has to realize that your customers are not to be taken for granted, during good times or bad. They are to receive what they are accustomed to expect from you, or better, under any circumstance and at any time in your company´s history.
Make sure to have your customer base well informed about your company´s direction, new offerings, improvements of current offerings and your interest in their business. Dedicate time to listen to your customer´s needs and wants and try to meet all of them if possible.
At the end, we should do what we should always do as business leaders and business owners. This is to strive for excellence in our businesses and to meet and surpass our customer´s expectations. If we focus on doing this, all of the noise from the outside world will become less noisy. We will also benefit by using our time and resources in the best way possible. This goes back to what we have mentioned in older posts, we should focus on our present as that is all we have.
So, what do you say if we just get to work and make the most out of what we have, place our company in an advantageous position for when the tides change direction and profit from our foresight?