We live in uncertain times. Last year's government shutdown, the debate over our national debt, confusion over Obamacare, and tightened credit lines all contribute to the growing fear among businesses and consumers that we could fall back into a recession. How can small-business owners move forward with risk and uncertainty staring them in the face?
"You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” —The Stockdale Paradox
I wrote that quote on a piece of paper in 2008 and pinned it to a wall in my home office. Five years later, it remains in the exact same spot. Admiral James Stockdale’s words serve as an uncomfortable reminder that, in business and life, we must address the adversities we face without letting them kill our hope and faith.
When it comes to dealing with adversity, there are four types of business owners. The first group faces adversity and does nothing. They hunker down and pray that the problem blows past without doing too much damage. The second group tries to run from it—and that’s when small issues become big problems. The third group moves to the sidelines as adversity marches through the area where they once stood.
The last group of business owners moves forward and challenges adversity. In most cases, this is when you see major problems become minor issues. Granted, it doesn’t happen every time. The recession in 2008 is arguably the best example of when small-business owners should have moved to the sidelines. We were never going to outrun the lengthy recession and we saw too many businesses get bowled over by opting to stay in the same spot. But for everyday obstacles, you must combine the discipline to confront them head on with the faith that you will prevail in the end.
A familiar example for business owners is their finances. If your business is feeling a credit crunch, you cannot wish the problem away, nor can you run from it. By addressing the situation, whether it's talking to your accountant or a representative from your bank, you put yourself in a position to defeat it. The same is true with sales (losing a big account), employees (losing one of the best members of your team) and emergency situations (when a natural or man-made disaster strikes your business). The natural tendency is to give up or lay down, but neither response is going to save your business. You must have the strength, confidence, discipline, and faith to successfully navigate whatever obstacles are thrown onto your path to success.
As the owner of your business, you are also the leader. Your employees are counting on you to guide them to wherever it is you want them to go. The best thing you can do is lead by example. Good luck!
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.