As the owner of a 20-year company that has experienced multiple government shut-downs, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the implosion of several industries, major contract protests, and even a lawsuit from an unethical subcontractor, I have a lot of experience with triage.
I also went to one of my most valuable mentors and advisors, Bobby Christian, who is CEO of Waterfall Software and sought his advice.
Here are our two pieces of advice for companies that need to reverse the decline:
1: Shift Your Mindset. A business owner (and their supporting team) needs to emotionally detach from all decisions they made prior to this point. They need to accept that what they were is not what they are going to be – ever again. They may grow again, but they will emerge in a different way.
There is a definite mourning process that occurs. Companies that are experiencing a decline must quickly accept that they are in survival mode, and act accordingly. It’s emotionally devastating to accept that you have to rip apart/downsize what you’ve built to stop the bleeding. But circumstances occur beyond our control, and it’s part of the journey of being a business owner.
It’s like cauterizing the blood-flow of a nosebleed – it has to be stopped in its tracks. Cut the employees that are overpaid and unbillable. Fire the clients that are not making money (Bobby fired 11 out of 14 customers, and fired the entire staff including a co-founder in one of his company acquisitions before rebuilding it.). Cut the extra expenses. Make hard decisions.
2: Dissect Your Company, Line by Line. Bobby has built (and re-built) a lot of companies, and is one of the wisest entrepreneurs I have met. Here is what he advises: “Sit down, take out a sheet of paper and write down all the assets you have in the company. Then write down all the liabilities. Create a plan to point (leverage) your assets to a new market, and another plan to start divesting your liabilities in a way that you do not cut too deep but you start making progress toward a new model for your business. As soon as I made the decision to shift/pivot the business, it made decisions very easy.”
It really is all about mindset, then action to stop the bleeding. Here are the things that won’t make it stop:
- Doing the same things you’ve been doing
- Hoping it stops
- Denying it’s happening – to yourself or others
- Withholding your pay for a pay-period or two (that’s a band-aid)
- Blaming others
As I advise other business owners that are passing through difficulty, this moment in time does not define a person – or a company. It is a blip on the overall radar screen.
Everything in life is a continuum. I think people get hung up when they are in the middle of difficulty and challenge. One needs to remember that everything that happens to us is temporary, so as hard and painful as something may be, it is short-lived in the grand scheme of our life spectrum. We must look at the totality of our experiences, rather than measuring ourselves against a single moment in time.
And in the lifespan of most businesses, there are overwhelmingly many more wins than there are setbacks.
Shift your mindset. Take action. Trust the process. And keep going!
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”