Business Resilience Weathering Economic Storms

Tom just learned that his business loan with a big bank won’t be renewed, which means the new business he recently picked up will not be pro
July 23, 2009 Tom just learned that his business loan with a big bank won’t be renewed, which means the new business he recently picked up will not be properly financed.  

Mary discovered her best, longstanding employee stole proprietary information from her company and channeled it to a key competitor. 

Harry recently received a recap from his project team leader and the projections are 200 percent over budget. 

What do all these people need?  Business resilience:  an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (Merriam-Webster online dictionary).  Are you resilient?  Does it matter?  Let’s find out here.

Face life’s personal and business adversities head-on.

On a personal level, nobody knows resiliency better than Elizabeth Edwards.  She wrote a book about it - “Resilience:  Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities.”  She appeared to live a life of luxury when, over the course of time, she lost her 16-year-old son in a freak car accident, learned about her husband’s infidelity and discovered her own life was on the line when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After rounds of treatment, the cancer went away only to return in 2007.

Is Elizabeth Edwards resilient?  You bet.  Why?  Because she just keeps moving forward.  Why is it important that Elizabeth Edwards faces adversity head-on?  And why is it crucial that you, too, face personal and business adversities head-on? 

Because living a full life, which may or may not include running a small business, more than likely includes unhappy events.  You can either choose to be a victim or become resilient.  Choosing resiliency sets you up for some additional challenges, but it also offers a chance to become an even healthier human being or a stronger organization in the process.

Long before Elizabeth Edwards wrote the book on resiliency, influential thinker and management guru Gary Hamel was already onto it.  With Lisa Valikangas, he co-authored, "Quest for Resilience" in 2003 for the Harvard Business Review (electronic download available here for U.S. $6.50).  He states, “Continued success no longer hinges on momentum.  Rather, it rides on resilience — on the ability to dynamically reinvent business models and strategies as circumstances change.”

So let’s take it from there and I’ll share a couple of actions that have worked for me when it comes to business resilience.

First, when bad news comes your way, be brutally honest with what’s happening and establish an action plan.  There’s nothing worse than pretending a problem does not exist!  So, remind yourself to ask, “What’s really going on?”  For example, if you lost a big client, admit it.  Determine why and what to do about it from here on in.  Think:  Create a new strategy on how NOT to lose clients!  If you find out someone in your firm is stealing trade secrets for the benefit of others, take action.  Think:  Create a better strategy on how to protect your intellectual property, and decide what you will do if the process is breached.  Usually business bumps can be caused by the inability to anticipate what’s ahead.  If it’s not a bump but a drop-off, say a pothole, it’s a business process problem or someone is totally “not on it.”

Second, if you can bounce back fast, efficiently and effectively in response to whatever bad news comes your way, you can use the new reality as a competitive advantage going forward. Don’t waste time longing for what “may have been.”  Take action to build your business more strategically around the new reality.  After all, you get a chance to strengthen a weakness, and the faster you move on it, the faster you save dollars spent in the wrong direction. In order to maintain continuous business momentum, respond swiftly to risks or a crisis, as well as opportunities.

Third and last, draw strength from the episode.  Lately, business assumptions or forecasts are being blown away every nanosecond due to the exceptionally volatile global business climate, but your resiliency allows you to move through it.  Though it may be haunting, daunting or even devastating, deal with it in a way that makes you feel good about your business and your life.  And don’t let other people’s disappointments disparage your worth or your businesses’ value.  After all, you want to be known for your stellar leadership qualities every day, not just during a time of crisis. 

Resiliency should live on not just during a one-time crisis or a short ride of tumultuous times, but forever.  When is the last time you were resilient?  Did it work?  Has your business become stronger as a result?  Don’t wait for the obvious.  Do something different, now.  


About the Author: Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of GlobeTrade.com. She also is the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog, all highly regarded for their global small business coverage.