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We are in unsettled times right now. According to some forecasters, the U.S. economy faces a 100% chance of a recession over the coming 12 months, and 98% percent of CEOs anticipate a recession. Whether in the 2% that remain optimistic about a recession yet or not, you recognize that during turbulent times, every decision counts.
All the uncertainty takes its toll. Each new hire, layoff and expense gets analyzed to ensure whether it leads to growth and, in some cases, even company survival. One of the biggest mistakes during recessionary times is making decisions too late. New entrepreneurs navigating this climate for the first time face difficulty making strategic predictions and knowing who to trust, seek advice and confide in. Even seasoned entrepreneurs, who have been through previous recessions, have learned that going it alone is not a good strategy.
This is an epidemic among entrepreneurs. The Gallup Wellbeing Index highlights that 45% of entrepreneurs report feeling lonely compared to 42% of other workers, with 50% of CEOs reporting loneliness.
Amongst entrepreneurs, a much higher percentage is feeling anxious or depressed daily. During these times, it is vital to cultivate communities of support to build resilience, ensure you do not make the necessary difficult decisions too late and weather the tough times ahead.
As the President and CEO of The Alternative Board, which represents 5000 privately-held small businesses in 22 countries worldwide, I speak with entrepreneur leaders daily about their concerns running seven and eight-figure companies to grasp the nuanced issues facing business leaders on main street.
The antidote is action if you are struggling with extreme stress and anxiety. But not just any action. Take action with the wisdom and guidance of others who have been through recessions already. You need support to boost your resilience and make sound decisions that advance your company’s growth and overall well-being.
How do you make difficult decisions confidently? It’s vital to surround yourself with other business owners, traveling down the same journey and learning from each other’s experience, to have the confidence to make hard decisions.
Facing the upcoming economic turbulence, here is the 7-step process to make difficult decisions and guide your enterprise to smoother times.
1. Get clarity on the core issue.
The adage “it’s lonely at the top” doesn’t have to be the case. If you feel you cannot share your day-to-day struggles with anyone, take some time to create the space you need to get clear. What is the underlying issue? It may not be an underperforming staff member. Perhaps it is the company culture overall or an outdated offer. Get to the root cause issue underlying the situation. You are not alone, even if you feel lonely.
2. Air the issue with your peers.
Napoleon Hill’s bestselling book “Think And Grow Rich” introduced the concept of an alliance of business leaders that convene around a given topic as a “mastermind.” Create a group of support between five to 10 individuals; they can be in varying industries, ages or demographic — the more diverse, the better. Articulate your issue to the group for their assessment.
3. Seek first to understand.
Ask clarifying questions to understand in a round-table style session; at my company, our philosophy is “don’t move the fence until you know why the fence was put there in the first place.” Our members want to ensure they are helping each other solve root-cause issues rather than symptoms. Have everyone ask clarifying questions to understand in a round-table style session. When everything is understood, you are better able to receive valuable feedback.
4. Share your experience.
The best advice is experience-based advice. Business owner peer boards often represent 150 years of business experience or more. Peers share their collective experiences. Sometimes the best advice is, “I tried this before, and it didn’t work out well for me.” That kind of advice is invaluable to other business owners. Consider whether any experience could apply to you or spark a new path forward.
5. Evaluate your options.
Many entrepreneurs spend too much time consuming information and not enough time in execution. After considering the feedback from your group, process what the takeaway points will be. What is most beneficial for your company in its growth trajectory? Decide on what from the session you would like to prioritize.
6. Commit to action.
We intentionally use the word “commitment” in board meetings. Members commit to each other that they will take a specific action. Commitment implies not only action but that each person is committing to their peers that they’ll take action. These commitments are a key part of moving key issues and opportunities forward.
7. Stay accountable.
The easiest person to let down is yourself; the hardest person to let down is someone else. Peer board members hold each other accountable for their commitments. They do this since they support each other, work together and try to help each group member address their challenges and take their business to the next level.
Although what lies ahead is uncertain, one thing is clear: by curating a community of support, advisors and mentors — whether, via a Board of Directors, accountability groups or peer-led support — entrepreneurs will be well-equipped to draw upon wisdom across industries and demographics to bolster each other and make better decisions to navigate the times ahead.