Think Business — Steering Through Uncertain Times
If there is a word that might have been used over and over and more often in the last 12 months, it is “uncertainty.”
We are all different; however, most do not like too much uncertainty. Most like to plan and to be able to predict accurately. Many measure successes based on predictions you said you were going to achieve.
I have used many different metaphors over the last year or so. I have spoken about the stormy waters and the difficulty sailing through them. We have spoken about being in jail or wearing a straitjacket as we hunkered down. I have also imagined driving in a fog not knowing what is ahead.
While these metaphors might shed a light on the environment, they also are changing week to week — and sometimes even day to day. The bottom line is uncertainty is not only uncomfortable, it also means we just do not know what to expect or plan for next. While having a vaccine slowly rolling out is positive, it still does not remove the uncertainty in 2021.
MAKING THE RIGHT ADJUSTMENTS
When there is uncertainty you need to adjust the distance (how far you are looking out) of your perspective. While we all want to have a well-thought-out, thorough annual budget, there are many variables that may come into play so that it may not be effective.
In a previous column, I wrote about the 12- week year. I still believe the perspective of 12 weeks is relevant. For many, even more effective today might be to intensely focus on the next 30 days. This shorter cycle will allow you to have more clarity in the goals (i.e., rather than say $1 million in sales for the quarter, make the goal three specific accounts that will close at $267,000 … or rather than hire 50 new people all at once for the spring season, hire 17 per month for specific roles so that you are fully staffed when it really gets busy at the end of the quarter).
What are your priorities for the next 30 days? Try to establish three priorities that you can control that will lead to accomplishing an outcome or goal.
- Closing deals.
- Staying connected to a specific team or customer.
- Shoring up talent.
Again, in these times it may be harder to predict whether you will hit a goal, but you can control the behavior and that will increase the likelihood of achieving it.
We have all heard the saying, “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” In uncertain times, try to change this message to “prepare for the worst and work hard for the best.” In uncertainty, you should leave nothing to chance. Go overboard locking in projects, suppliers, clients, projects and staff — do not assume. Many of these assumptions will be wrong if you do.
In addition to adjusting, you are planning goals; I also encourage you to think of the longer-term goals more as fantasies but trying to stay exceptionally light afoot to adjust and change quickly based on uncertainty. Know where you are heading, but try not to be too rigid in your longer-term decisions.
You also might want to be a little more conservative on your longer term investments. Maybe push back the lease signing for more clearer skies or putting off a hire that will not bring you short-term results.
In uncertainty, cash will help bridge the unknown better. Try to conserve cash or increase the line of credit so you can be better positioned.
It is painful for me to be so unclear about the future. I do think adjusting the view and the mindset will also help you to not only get through the uncertainty but also you might be better off because of positioning yourself this way.