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Don’t Panic! How to Stop Reacting in Crisis Mode

The pandemic and the economic downturn that followed put many businesses in shaky situations. It’s not the first, or the last, time in history that business leaders will navigate uncertainty. Businesses have been succeeding and failing since capitalism began. It’s a fact of life when you go into business, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

Many businesses that could have won during this new normal lost due to poor and reactive management. If business crises have been happening since the dawn of capitalism, why is it that businesses keep going under for the same reason?

Because humans run businesses, and humans are emotional, fallible creatures.

Breaking news: A crisis hits

When a crisis hits, whether it’s external (a pandemic) or internal (a sudden change in leadership or loss of a major client), “business as usual” ceases to exist.

We stop everything and focus on survival.

Leaders focus on the problem in front of them and how to solve it. They go into reactionary mode. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Staying in reactionary mode long-term, however, can hurt a business. This type of mindset leads to jumping from one thing to the next, trying to put out fires on the outskirts while neglecting the core of the company.

Stop wasting your time

When we feel threatened, we look for solutions to protect us from that threat. That is a good thing. When we constantly feel threatened, it causes the need for immediate solutions to snowball, gain speed, and draw us away from our core goals. Here’s an example:

John’s pipeline is empty, and his business has little to no online credibility. He deals with this by deciding to:

  • Build a website
  • Create marketing materials
  • Educate his list of contacts through emailing campaigns

As he throws himself into these projects, he:

  • Reads about SEO (whatever that is) and decides he must spend time on it
  • Comes up with three marketing campaign ideas to send out right now, complete with new graphics, tag lines, and logos
  • Emails his contacts about each new thing he’s excited about

A few months down the line, his pipeline is still empty. His contacts are confused and annoyed by his emails. His website doesn’t match his brand and isn’t gaining traffic. Why? Because amidst the excitement of finding all the solutions, and the solutions to go with those solutions, he failed to:

  • Start prospecting (getting referrals, calling leads, networking)
  • Define his brand
  • Set a clear plan and objective and stick to it

John got sidetracked by the solutions, and not the goals. If your goal is to get tied up doing a million things that might help your business, but that are time-intensive and complicated, then go down John’s path.

If you want to make substantial, reliable progress, slow down.

Get back to the basics

Whether or not you’re in a moment of crisis, the core of what makes a business successful is always the same. Aside from having a valuable, reliable product:

  • Do you have a strong brand, complete with company values, vision, and voice?
  • Are you able to understand your customers’ pain points and needs?
  • Are you able to successfully communicate with your customers?
  • Do you have a healthy company culture?
  • Are you getting prospects and leads?
  • Are you spending time each day prospecting those leads?

Focusing on the core needs of your business is the best way to get you through a crisis. While some pivoting may need to happen, if it’s done without tying back to a core need and goal, it’s going to fail. Or, at the least, waste your time.

Take off the tunnel vision glasses

The frame of mind that helps us deal with a crisis by homing in on what needs to happen right now to avoid failure is not sustainable. When you’re feeling the anxiety of rising waters, stop looking for the one small plank that will keep you afloat and start looking for higher ground.

Create clear goals centered around your core business needs. Define how you will meet those core needs. Align each action you take to a core goal that meets a core need.

Don’t skip ahead. Don’t get distracted.

Keep moving, with your eye on the target, and your feet on the ground.


Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

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