The practical key

We’ve just gone through another year of uncertainty and it seems that 2013 will be no different. In fact, in the last few years we really haven’t been able to predict the future with any certainty.

In many cases people didn’t know if they would have a job the next month or be facing a pay cut or if their business would be able to pay the rent, pay wages etc. We’re not alone; the whole world is currently living in uncertainty but, as business owners, how can we deal with this?

Research carried out by the prestigious Swiss Business School IMD International a few years ago, identified five ways that expert entrepreneurs approach and manage uncertain situations. The technical notes prepared by Professor Stuart Read show that in times of uncertainty expert entrepreneurs do the following:

* Assess their means i.e. take action based on who they know and what they know.

* Set affordable losses by pursuing opportunities without investing more than they can afford to lose.

* Form partnerships in order to grow.

* Leverage contingency i.e. use unforeseen events to encourage creative and imaginative thinking.

* Transform their businesses by creating the future based on what they have.

I recently came across Professor Read’s technical notes on this subject and I was pleased to see that my fictional character, Daniel Tennant aka The Merger Mogul, had done all of the things that an expert entrepreneur would do according to Professor Read’s research, so this is my advice to business leaders in these times of uncertainty.

Spend some time on your business and not just in it so that you can assess what you already have and how you can use it.

As soon as Daniel Tennant recognised that the economy had gone into recession and that mergers and acquisitions would begin to decline, as evidenced by historical trends, he called his team together for a retreat to start looking at what they had in their “house” so to speak i.e. what skills they already had and how they could use them in different ways and who they already knew that they could sell those skills to.

Look at the low hanging fruit i.e. the opportunities that can be pursued at a minimal cost.

The team in The Merger Mogul decided to make contact with existing clients for whom they had been the merger consultants but this time with the aim of helping them with post-merger issues. That strategy would cost them little more than a phone call or so and perhaps a business lunch.

Seek strategic alliances or partnerships in order to grow and pursue opportunities.

Having decided to pursue a strategy of working with clients on their post-merger integration issues, Tennant Consulting partnered with a business coach to deal with team building and communication issues and a physiotherapist to create physical team building exercises in order to enhance their services and add additional revenue streams.

See unexpected surprises as not necessarily bad but opportunities to force you to think differently.

When one of Tennant Consulting’s clients became extremely irate because their merger was not working out, the firm was able to use that as an opportunity to introduce their new service offering of creating oneness to deal with post-merger incompatibility issues.

Don’t try to predict when the recession will end but take action now, be proactive.

The team at Tennant Consulting, rather than trying to figure out when the recession would end, looked at what they could create with what they had and how they could use it to help existing clients and transform the business at the same time.

The bottom line is that our businesses may be operating in uncertainty for the foreseeable future, so the key to succeeding in these times is to take a practical approach, as opposed to an analytical one, i.e. don’t spend all of your time planning and investigating. Instead trust that you have the ability to create a positive future based on what you already have, what you already know and who you already know and just do something.

Special thanks to Professor Stuart Read of IMD International for giving me permission to quote from his technical notes in my article.

Donna Every is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA who worked with Ernst & Young for ten years before starting her own Business Advisory practice. She has written four books including What Do You Have in Your House?, Surviving in Times of Financial Crisis and the newly released novel The Merger Mogul.

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