Sink or Swim? Leading your business in challenging times


Challenging times are never few for entrepreneurs. They come in all shapes and forms – external pressures, internal pressures – sudden and unexpected things happen.

One thing we know is that these events will pass but will your business survive it?

In a crisis, there is a lot of uncertainty. Things are changing so quickly, you find you have to be a different leader almost daily. This can be crippling and it is often hard to know what to do.

Doing nothing is never a good option. The first thing to do is to do something! The key to survival is always movement, it is important to maintain traction.

Here are some suggestions to help you get through challenging times:

  • Mindset: Be determined to turn your fears into purpose. Whilst others are focused on what won’t work and the doom, you get leverage by focusing on what can. Adopt a growth mindset – decide that this is a challenge you can overcome, you will learn from this and you will be better after this. Think: “What can we do right now?” “Where are the possibilities?”, “What good can come out of this?”
  • Be strategic and agile: It won’t be business as usual but it is still business. Things will have to change and you have to make decisions that will improve or ruin your business.  A pragmatic and practical orientation is critical. Be prepared to review your strategy as changes occur, adjust your strategy quickly and change direction if necessary. The key thing here is to maintain a long-term view and avoid knee jerk reactions. Also, keeping things simple makes it easy to carry others along and makes your business more nimble.
  • Engage: Listen and engage effectively with all your stakeholders – staff, investors, customers, suppliers and the community around you. Your communication strategy is critical in challenging times. Assess the needs of each stakeholder group, hear their concerns, and their suggestions. Be honest and open in your response, show compassion, show you are human and show you care. Aim to narrow the relationship gap, let them know “we are in this together”.
  • Protect your values: With increased pressure, it is easy to let down your guard around your business and personal values (for most entrepreneurs these are the same).  Guard your values, don’t compromise on them. Let them help you in your decision making as you navigate your way out of the challenging times. It ensures that you end up where you’d like to be. Remember that leaders are always on show and your audience have a long memory.
  • Learn: The pressure is on and things are probably moving very fast, but remember to keep a chronicle of your journey. The lessons learnt, knowledge and insight acquired will help you develop new strategies to mitigate similar issues in the future and make your business stronger. Reflect on what lessons you are learning personally and as a business.
  • Look after yourself: This is the No.1 thing. Self-care is critical in challenging times even though it might seem like a luxury. You need to be physically, mentally and emotionally fit to navigate the waters of challenging days. When you eat well, exercise, rest and sleep well, you can cope with pressures better, you have more stamina, you can make better decisions as you have a clearer mind. Your business is depending on you; you are the voice of the business so look after No. 1.

Remember hard times don’t last and success is not purely measured by profit. With determination and focused action, your business can get through every challenge.