Originally published on the Shirlaws Business Coaching Blog, 2007-2010.

I had the benefit last week of chairing an expert panel discussion addressing ‘Business in Uncertain Times’. The core question was whether, at this time, businesses and their owners should Hold their Breath or Go for Broke at the opportunities that exist.

Ultimately, of course, the answer from the panel was that it depends. I thought I would share with you what I believe it actually depends on, so that you can ask yourself the question, and more importantly develop a short-term strategy to address the current economic mood.

Hold Your Breath if:

  • You haven’t recently examined the financial and emotional state of your business
  • You don’t have a clear Vision for the business
  • Recent fast growth means you’re frustrated or stressed in the business
  • You find yourself reacting to bad news or poorer than expected staff and client feedback

Focus on:

  • Taking stock – this can be a financial review or a full business examination. If you’re too busy or want added perspective, look to commission an expert to help with this
  • Asking where you want to be – this could be a great time to discover you were heading in the wrong direction, or perhaps in no direction at all, and address that
  • Identifying the key needs and opportunities in your business – are there some small changes that can help greatly? Are there genuine opportunities for improvement or growth?
  • Managing your own energy – dire economic times can be draining, particularly for business owners and key executives. You can take responsibility for how you feel – and this may be the perfect time for a much needed holiday

Go for Broke if:

  • You know, with confidence, that the strategy will not in fact make you broke
  • You have a clear understanding of the businesses financials today and projections into the future
  • You’ve experienced this stage of the market cycle before, and learnt from that experience
  • You know, and are supported by others, that the opportunity before you is too good to miss

Focus on:

  • Understanding your key leverage points – what is it that you do well, which can enhance any opportunity in front of you
  • Communicating your intentions and purpose – you may be confident about the finances, but if staff are feeling nervous and kept in the dark then your expansion plans could appear reckless
  • Supporting key relationships – Client, Suppliers, Referrers, and Staff will all experience different things during the current economic climate, and your support today will lead to better relationships in the future
  • Leveraging the expertise of others – again, this may be within your business or from outside expertise

A downturn in the market – any market – gives a great opportunity for business to build for the future. Investment today, in the right areas, will lead to increased marketshare, profitability, and opportunities in the future.

And there are opportunities today. The decision you have to make it whether you are well-placed to seize those opportunities – because if you aren’t, and you stretch too far, the best you can hope for is being a bargain opportunity for somebody who planned things better.

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