4 Guiding Principles for Navigating Uncertain Times

First published October 16, 2008

Even the financial pundits have admitted they do not know when the market lurching will end and national and international markets will settle down. With the intercession of the government, there is a general belief that things will settle down at some point. It is the consensus view, however, that we will end somewhere higher than we are now, but nowhere near where we began this unprecedented fall.

The general advice financial managers have been giving their clients for the last two weeks is good advice for everyone – hold steady. For business people, it is an opportunity to reexamine your core business, re-identify your strengths, your unique selling proposition, and your key messages. Going back to the basics is smart business in any economy but certainly in a challenged one.

Here are some things to consider:
1. Be strategic – Review goals and objectives, budgets, and staff resources with a critical eye. Companies sometimes cut marketing and promotion budgets in a knee jerk reaction to market downturns, and it’s easy to see these line items as “expendable.” But they’re usually not. Marketing and promotion expenditures are investments in your long-term health as a company. Examine what is working; what is not working, and what can be postponed; but understand the long-term consequences of these decisions.

2. Be clear – Once you have made realistic adjustments to your goals and objectives, make sure that you are communicating this to all your constituencies inside and outside the company. In challenging times, it is even more critical that your entire team work together to minimize wasted time and effort. Remember that communicating your key messages inside your company is equally important to communicating them externally.

3. Be strong – As the business owner or manager, it is your job to make the tough decisions. You have an obligation to the company that supersedes any obligation to individuals. It is unlikely that you will now have all the resources you had planned, so weigh your decisions carefully and re-read #1.

4. Be available – You need to be visible and available to customers and employees. Everyone is rattled. Many of us have never seen volatile fluctuations like this before. The causes are complex and the solutions are multi-faceted. Do not trivialize concerns or respond with facile reassurances. Be direct and authentic.

This is an opportunity to have full, rich conversations with your team about your mission and how to accomplish it. Revisit the basics of your business, particularly sales and marketing. Listen to your customers.  Find and read business blogs by people who may have a wider market view than you do like Lee Wilson who weighs in on how this financial crisis affects K-12 publishing. Challenge your thinking by reading people like Seth Godin , Chris Brogan, and Joe Wikert. There are many experienced pros sharing their perspectives online. Sort through what is meaningful to you and what isn't. Come back and share what you've found.

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