Carefully making my way down the trail from the summit of East Kennebago Mountain, my legs felt like jello. The elevation wasn’t too bad (3800′) but it was more strenuous than I expected. Each step down my shins, thighs and hips spoke to me. I baby stepped down another few steps and felt my entire body lurch forward – and before I knew it I was literally cartwheeling down the trail. Me, my backpack and my hiking poles landed in a heap, and my hiking partner ran to my side to see if I was ok. I was better than ok…. I was laughing my ass off. From my view, I was completely upside down and looking back up the trail I had just tumbled down. Luckily, I was unhurt, and nothing but my butt and my pride was bruised.
We all stumble and fall from time to time. What matters is, how quickly do we get back up? In business – we call this resilience. There are some misnomers that resilient businesses are bulletproof – they never falter. This is not true. The most resilient businesses are lead by someone who can bounce back, get up and brush him or herself off, and keep going. So, how do we build up our resilience so we can bounce back after a set back?
Know and expect that you will fall. This is hard. I remember doing a “trust fall” with a group while we were doing team building exercises. I stood there in the group with my arms locked and watched each of my team mates stand on the platform, turn around, cross their arms and fall backwards into the net of the groups arms. As each person took their turn, I knew I was eventually going to be “next.” In my mind, I tried to find ways out of taking my turn – faking an injury, or claiming it was against my religion. But there was no way out – I had to take my turn. Falling was inevitable.
Build a safety net. Just as I had my peers waiting for me with locked arms during my “trust fall” – every business owner needs to create a support system around them for when things go awry – otherwise, you will hit the ground – hard. This safety net needs to be built sooner than later – before you are in crisis. Find people you know, like and trust who are running businesses similar to yours and build relationships with them. You need to be able to have a support system you can call on when things go down. Be prepared to reciprocate.
Be Prepared Boy Scouts have been touting this for generations now… and it’s a tried and true motto. In business – always have a “bounce back plan.” Start with making sure you have 3-6 months of income saved in the bank in case of emergencies. Review your insurance policies – be sure you are covered for the worst case scenarios. If possible, create alliances with a competitor in case you need to send contracts their way if you can not fulfill them if you are ill or injured. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
A resilient business begins with a resilient business owner. If you are a sole-proprietor, this holds true for you even more. Your business is YOU. If you are sick or injured, financially unstable, stressed, or overburdened production limps along or comes to a screeching halt. I will talk more about building up your personal resistance in my next article … stay tuned.
Hit the Heights!
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
Business Leadership Guide