Back July 20, 2016

Control What You Can

Hectic. This is a good word to describe modern times. Suited for both personal and professional aspects of one’s life. We surround ourselves with technology and tools, methods and algorithms in our search to gain control. We even feel somehow comfortable with the thought that we actually managed to predict and influence most aspects of our lives or businesses.

Until something unexpected happens and bam! We wake up perplexed, anxious, trying to figure out which way to go. So what can you do? You can’t predict and control natural disasters, political and economic shifts and turns. It’s been like that since ever.

Then what? Then we adapt and learn to control what resides in our capacities.

Let’s take a small business for example (this is our well-known universe here, at ThinkOut). You plan ahead, you do the math, everything is ready and going according to plan. Still waters ahead. Clients are there doing great, just waiting for you to deliver, the team is steadily growing, maybe you even consider expanding abroad. Then something like the Brexit vote happens; or the Turkish coup. Maybe it doesn’t affect you directly, but it may affect your clients or suppliers or your international team. All of a sudden, the plan you beautifully designed and have been sticking to, doesn’t apply anymore. Of course, things won’t stay shaky for long, it will all go back to normal, but how soon? And how do you function till then?

Here’s where you take plan B out of the drawer. By the way, what should be in that drawer in the first place?

Spare cash

Ok, not literally. Still, that old saying about ”money for rainy days” was not invented for the sake of it. Having cash reserves is the best thing you can do for your business. When running a small or medium-sized company, especially in the IT&C realm, not knowing for sure when the next cash in will happen is part of the everyday life. That is something you cannot control (not entirely). What you can control is your cash flow (take a look at our platform and see how you can do it). You can watch it closely. Use a tool to centralise revenue and expenses data, be accurate and bring up to date regularly. It will help you know at any moment what needs to be paid, how much is left in your account, what client payments are overdue, what expenses you can (and should) cut and so on. Information is power; use this kind of intel to get prepared for those “rainy days”.

Alternative suppliers

Another old saying speaks about not putting all the eggs in the same basket. Because if it falls, you end up with a huge omelet to eat right away and no eggs left for the other days. Same applies to business. Don’t rely too much upon on the same suppliers. Loyalty is great, developing a long-term relationship with business partners is an entrepreneur’s dream. It gives you the feeling of certainty, that you are in control. Feels good thinking of it, doesn’t it? Now imagine that your long term supplier just hits trouble over night and you can no longer rely on him. Just like that. To spice things up imagine a tight deadline and you depending on whatever he is delivering to you (product or service). What then? That comfy feeling of cosy safety fades away, doesn’t it?

Therefore, without putting aside loyalty and good intentions, keep your eyes and ears open for alternatives; know what others have to offer; get to know them personally, connect. So that when unexpected events hit, you still have someone to turn to, who would be willing to supply promptly whatever you need. This way you are able, at your turn, to deliver in time. That is something you can control.

Take care of your team’s morale

Another thing you can control in times of great uncertainty is the motivation level of your team. As the business owner, they will look up to you and wait for guidance; they will follow your example. Make sure you don’t add more pressure by keeping things from them; the more everybody knows about the given situation, the greater the feeling of confidence. People need to know they are at least a bit in control of something. Information, as scarce as it is, offers reassurance. Explain what needs to be done, so they feel all involved and part of the solution. Supporting each other is the best way to deal with tough times. Though unexpected doesn’t necessarily mean something bad has happened (just not according to plan), sudden changes can throw them out of focus and induce anxiety. Be an example of calm and reliability.

Stay flexible

When you don’t have the power to influence an outer event, you can, in return, influence your reaction to it. Flexibility is the best response when the unexpected happens. Adapt to survive; adapt to seize opportunities and evolve. Don’t get stuck in the old routine. Change objectives, change strategy, see what you can and cannot do. Most importantly, keep an open mind. Be prepared to pivot. Even if it appears you hit a dead end, stay assured that another door opens and new markets may emerge, new technologies appear and new business partners may turn up.

So remember: stay prepared for the unexpected with some cash reserves, a good cash flow management, alternative solutions for suppliers, open-mindedness towards new markets and opportunities, a good team morale and flexibility in how you run your business.