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Thriving in Business During Hard Times.

By Tony Ajah

I was on a short trip out of the country sometimes last year when the news of the global economic melt-down began to make sense to me. I saw as businesses there moved slowly that what they used to be (especially in my previous visits). One question came to my mind: what would happen if this crisis eventually hit us directly here? Many businesses in Nigeria have been having it rough in good times. What would turn out if the situation becomes unfavourable? Try to imagine that. Hard times are bound to come, whether in life or in business. I have useful proofs from history. The good news is that it's seasonal, and not the end of the road. However, who you are and what you've got to face such times is very critical; it would determine what would become of you. 'The problem', someone said 'is not the problem itself but the size of the mind confronting the problem'. I'm not just talking about your surviving hard times but thriving and making a remarkable and sustainable growth as if nothing is happening. The question now is: what do you do to survive and thrive in the midst of economic crunch? Informed preparation before it bites harder would preserve your business and prevent it from going down. Here is my advice which could possibly be helpful to you:

Maintain the Right attitude:

Your attitude in difficult times is more important than any other thing. It sets the pace for what would happen while the period lasts. Things are not always as bad as they seems. And it can't get so bad that there won't be a way out. Most of the panic or fever we have is not real; they are speculation induced.

Hard times are times of fresh business opportunities. In this period, new businesses would emerge, but you must possess a positive attitude in order to see them. Closed eyes are closed opportunities. Remember, opportunity is in the eye of the beholder. People with right attitude would swim where as those with negative attitude would sink. In other words, if your attitude is negative, you see things negatively and if you attitude is positive, you see things positively.

Whenever things look bleak, always learn to display a sunny outlook towards the situation and watch what would happen; you'd be amazed. Charles Swindoll advised, 'The most significant decision I make each day is my choice of an attitude. When my attitudes are right there's no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.' I have personally gone through rough times in my business. One of the things that kept me going was my attitude.

Interestingly, your attitude is your choice – you choose how the situation would affect you, or not affect you. See the recession as a time that would usher in great things for your business, and then follow through your convictions. 'The success and failure in business is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.' So, taught Walter Scott.

Reposition and Restructure Your System:

Like I said earlier, another world of business opportunities is knocking on the door. Remaining where you are, and doing things the way you've always done them may be very costly. Joel Barker, the author of the book Future Edge remarked, 'When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. Your past success means nothing.' There is a paradigm shift in the business arena, and it's still shifting. Without proper alignment you trail behind.

One of the primary keys to remaining in business is flexibility. Flexibility is a good business virtue. You have to be flexible enough to respond appropriately to whatsoever change that may come your way. The business world after all, is a dynamic world. To enable you make the most of the emerging trend, you have to make necessary adjustments. This might demand your learning, unlearning, and relearning certain business skills. Do them so as to secure the future of your business.

Focusing on what really matter makes you produce the result that really counts. This time calls for your concentrating only on what you are very good at, and then pour yourself and resources into it. Give up whatsoever you struggle at before now, and focus on your core competencies. Eliminate the unnecessary to maximise resources.

This might require your doing an inventory analysis to know your true strength and weakness, and capitalise on where you have competitive advantage. Identify priorities and refocus your resources where they are going to give you gainful returns. 'The most successful business man,' Robert P. Vanderpool said, 'is the man who holds the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better'.

If a business is not reinventing itself and adapting to the times, it would die. In business, a permanent state of reinvention is good for you future growth. That something worked today does not guarantee the same tomorrow. In addition, you'd have to set up a creative atmosphere that would give room for development. This has been very helpful to me in my outfit.

Engage in People-Oriented Service:

The basic aim of any business is to meet a need and make profit in the process. I don't know of any other thing. Hard times don't eliminate businesses completely (although some businesses may be suspended or even go into extinction in the process). But human needs are rather compounded than eliminated during economic depression. At a time like this, those who are not called into business might not survive it; things that would discourage you would abound but don't give up.

You've got to redouble your effort to give your clients seamless services that truly meet their needs like no other. People will be too conscious of how and where they spend their money. If it's not worth it they would hold back or go elsewhere. Everybody has a 'product-service'; it's what you do beyond the 'product-service' that makes all the difference in business.

There would certainly be need s for what you are offering but you have to improve in your approach to generate enough patronage. It might also necessitate your establishing a stronger relationship with your key buyers to retain their loyalty. Much out there are seeking for the attention of few buyers. Why not be the one they would love to do business with all the time, no matter the market situation? Adopt New Strategies: The period of recession calls for re-strategising. Strategies have to accept new fundamentals. No business would ignore the realities of its environment and still win. Take another look at your business. Will the strategies you have now carry you through the rough road? If yes, congratulations but if no, you have to adopt fresh measures.

A lot in business depends on strategy. Each business day is a class room opportunity to relearn and rework. Business situations always create new realities that demands more from us. Victory here hinges on your ability to convert what's on ground to your advantage. Develop a new strategic framework to understand you true position and the possible impact of the challenging times on your business, and then make critical changes. I called this the scoreboard-strategic approach. It doesn't take just a strategy to win; it takes the scoreboard strategy - the strategy you adopt based on current truth. You can't win without a strategy but you can lose with one except the scoreboard strategy. I see you winning, and winning big with it!

Integrate the G-Factor:

Integrate the G-factor. G is for God. Yes God. The Almighty God is the God of business and He is interested in your running a thriving business, whether in good times, and in presumably hard times. In the domain of God, there is no recession. You can introduce the same in you enterprise and live in that domain. I am surely there.

If reputable business scholars and business schools cannot find an immediate answer to the tumbling global economy, I know God can. Check the history, any time there's a problem beyond man, there's usually a need for one that's divine. Some call it divine intervention. And He never fails. God is the surest security your business needs now. I am saying this experientially. I won't be truthful to myself if I don't tell you my secret.

There's always this still voice that whispers to our hearts whenever we are in a kind of business cross-road. (And that's one aspect of it). The problem is that we are usually too busy to hear or listen. That voice has a message that you can't find in any business book. Would you listen? It's up to you to decide.

There is so much to talk about but with these you can restart your business on a better note. So go and take action. Don't panic and be courageous even when what you expect is not what you are seeing, and a new world of business would open up to you. Feel free to get my attention if you need further assistance. It's up to you to make your business happen.

Tony Ajah is a Business Growth Strategist, and the Principal Strategist, TA Strategic Solutions, a Lagos-based firm that is into business growth and development. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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