Bootcamp rules for tough times

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					Bootcamp rules for tough times
RIGHT MINDED with David Hanlon

Looking forward to 2009, I suggest that we are likely to see the first quarter figures of many
firms not looking good and, when combined with carry over debt from the festive season,
families will also be tightening their belts.
                                                                        The financial stresses many are
It is essential you, your family and staff are as                       about to face are equivalent to
resourceful as possible. A recent study by Dr                               droughts in rural areas.
Keith Miller of Flinders University suggested
drought and social isolation were the main                              Financial stress is merely one of
causes for the rate of suicide among male                               many events that creates the
farmers being some 50 per cent higher than the                          perception that decisions which
average in rural communities. Men in particular                         impact your future are out of
have a tendency to feel inadequate in their                             your control. It is however not
ability to provide: it diminishes their sense of
                                                                        that which happens to us: it is
purpose and existence.
                                                                        how we choose to respond.
The 10 points below are a guide to the areas I see successful business addressing during such

     1. Get focus
One of the primary causes of stress is worrying about all that might happen. However,
psychologists point out that much of our worry is generalised; that we worry about the
overall “might be’s” rather than one specific factor. More worry results in dread, panic or
denial, making you less capable of working with the specific things you need to manage.
Frequently, when dealing with businesses who have stressful decisions to make, we get them
to focus and run scenarios on what might be some options and, if they came off, we seek to
explore three things: first, what kind of changes might truly happen; second, what
information or perspective you need to trust and accept those potential changes; and finally
what specifically would you have to do to minimize the impact of these events. Once we have
these scenarios I look for what supporting structures can be put in place (more on these

     2. Take action
High stress times tend to provoke one of two         Not making a decision is in fact a
responses: denial/avoidance or rabbit-in-the-        decision to do nothing. It is a
headlights paralysis. Both are understandable;       decision to accept the status quo.
neither is helpful. If you have not thought
through and evaluated responses to future possibilities, it is difficult to be proactive.
Procrastination increases stress and pressure. If you have a tendency to put things off, the
best thing is to team up with or work with someone who is willing help you.

Instead of being consumed by the big bits, take what we call small meaningful steps - always
moving forward is essential.

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     3. Get strong
Being strong (or resilient) is one of the most crucial things in tough times. Sadly, many men
believe that strength is punching through – not talking about this sort of stuff – until they

Some of the factors that build resilience are nurturing, caring and supportive relationships
both within and outside the family – relationships that encourage discussion about issues in
an open and supportive manner. Other factors include looking at ones beliefs, behaviors,
opinions, or attitudes that could result in negative and depressive conditions.

     4. Protect the core
In their book, “Built to Last”, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras look at some of the key features
of visionary companies that have been successful over time. Preserving and looking after the
essential core of the business was a key feature. This means keeping up quality of those
enterprises that underpin the business. It is not a time for maintaining fringe or under
performing activities that could put the entire business at risk.

     5. Key people matter
Retaining key staff and investing in their skills. In good times if you think you need good
people, then this is even more critical in tough times when great people are needed to ensure
survival and competitiveness. Companies that last continue to invest in knowledge and skills
even during tough times.

     6. Involve others
One of the worst case situations is operating as a lone ranger: pride and fear often prevent us
from openly bringing in other points of view. If you have a board of directors, this is one
time when they should be very closely involved in your decisions and directions. If there is
no board, then co-opt some good thinkers – many of our most successful businesses have
informal boards. Also, it is important to have people who don’t agree with you – you need
those with courage to challenge and support the decisions made.

In particular, it is critical to involve those who we rely on for funding. They need to be kept
in the picture, your options and plans brought to the table without them having to ask.

     7. Set a course

Setting directions is critical: and it only works if you are working towards something as
opposed to trying to get away from something.

Time and time again, we see poor performance because those in the business are really good
at telling others what they don’t want with no focus on what they want.

     8. Opportunities always exist
No matter what the situation there are always opportunities, which if exploited, will provide
a better result than the status quo. Unfortunately, if you are bound up in fear, misery, guilt,

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self-pity or anger, opportunities will be missed. These opportunities will frequently be the
catalyst for stimulating recovery and/or growth within your business.

     9. Get help
Stress and depression change things. For example:

a. How you interpret things - resilient people reinterpret negative meanings into positive
   ones, stress frequently distorts or magnifies the situation
b. What you do - includes increased risk for emotional responses (over eating, not eating,
   outbursts), self indulgences, substance abuse, accidents, injury, and suicide
c. How you relate - including conflicts with spouses and other forms of antisocial behavior

Help is available however you have to ask or seek it.

     10.             Look after No 1
Only too frequently does personal care drop off when depressed. Researchers at Duke
University studied people suffering from depression for 4 months and found that 60% of the
participants who exercised for 30 minutes three times a week overcame their depression
without using antidepressant medication. This is the same percentage rate as those who only
used medication in their treatment for depression.

                                          10 Focus Questions
                 Answer these as though you were an observer of the business and
                 then have someone else who knows your business to give you an
                                         honest set of answers.
                Scenario plans
                1. Do you know and agree as to what you will do if you have to cut
                     expenditure by 10%, 20, 30%?
                2. Do you know what triggers are most likely to cause this?
                3. What is at risk? Be specific.
                4. Are you involving our board and other key outsiders in working
                     through these times?
                5. Are we helping our team stay focused rather than getting bogged
                     down in doom and gloom?
                6. Are you investing in yourself and core staff to ensure the business is
                     performing at its peak under the current conditions?
                7. Are you as open to opportunities as you could be?
                8. Do you have beliefs, behaviors, opinions, or attitudes that are
                     limiting you from adapting to any changes you need to make?
                9. Is your personal fitness what it should be?
                10. Are you seeking all the help you need?

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