With corporate CFOs expressing worries that 2020 could bring a recession, according to a recent Deloitte survey, businesses small and large know they need to hope for the best, and brace for the worst.
But, as important as business savvy and financial expertise can be in riding out difficult times, other traits also come into play and may be just as essential.
One of those essential traits is courage. Thirty years ago when I started my company, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail.
My firm, like many businesses, endured tough economic times after the 9/11 attacks. Revenue dropped and bankruptcy loomed as a real possibility.
I had to figure out how to turn my company around. It took courage, endurance, and perseverance, but I knew I could not go back, so I had no choice but to go forward.
Courage is just one of the 5 Cs for building and maintaining a successful business.
They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes.
In addition to courage, the other Cs are:
Caring. First, care enough about yourself and your dreams to believe you can achieve success. Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them. Be supportive when stressful situations arise in their lives. Finally, a good business leader cares about customers. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.
Confidence. Most people have faced and overcome challenges in life. The confidence that allowed them to prevail over those challenges needs to be brought into play in business. Believing you can reach for and achieve your short-term and long-term goals is essential to getting you there.
Competence. It’s critical to stay up on the trends and disruptions in your industry. But you need to recognize your limitations, and you shouldn’t take on jobs within your company for which you’re not qualified. You’ll make yourself miserable and your business will suffer. So, hire an accountant to handle the financials. Get marketing help if that’s not your thing. Hire competent people who you will trust in their jobs — and then trust them.
Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes. There are times when this will be not only difficult, but downright painful. That was the case during those tough times after the 9/11 attacks. I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go beloved employees. For more than a year, I ramped up marketing efforts, diversified our services, and took other steps to get the business out of the red. In 2005, I succeeded — and it has been upward and onward ever since.
If you’ve recently launched a new business, know that you’ll encounter challenges, but don’t panic. When times get tough, if you rely on the Cs as a sort of compass, you can guide the business back to smoother waters.
Marsha Friedman, author of “Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage,” is founder and president of News & Experts (www.newsandexperts.com), a national public-relations agency.