Did you ever feel like you were in a truly dark business situation? So far deep into the woods that you wondered, “How did I get here?” That you asked yourself, “How do I get out of this mess?” I’ll certainly share my dark business situations with you, but I would rather illustrate this point with a dark personal situation that’s perhaps a more applicable parallel. While planning for this post, I found myself in the woods on my property, in the thickest wooded brush I’d ever seen. It was 90+ degrees outside and I was suffering from heat exhaustion. Six yellow jackets decided to evict me by stinging me multiple times on my hands and face (three stings to my index finger knuckle alone, by the way). I was panting and I couldn’t stop sweating. My muscles began to spasm and cramp due to fluid loss. It was lonely in the woods far from my house as I stood sick and injured, feeling defeated in my battle with nature. To rewind, surveyors from PennEast had trespassed on our property to survey for a 36-inch gas pipeline through our land. The pipeline would cross our land and creeks for natural-gas extraction, distribution, and exportation. Admittedly, I am more of a capitalist than I will ever be an environmentalist, but in my opinion PennEast commits unimaginable crimes against the environment for profit. My intellectual and pacifist wife decided to confront and remove three surveyors personally. She called me for help, but I couldn’t get to her due to the thickness of the brush, so I called the police. A husband finds himself in stressful situations at times. After the police left, I told myself, “Never again will the thickness of brush stand between her safety and me.” There’s a parallel between my battle with nature and the battles we face in business. I work for amazing clients—in fact, sometimes they’re so amazing that they distract me from marketing my own work. Unfortunately, I find myself yet again in the feast-famine business cycle. I enjoy working more than marketing. (Maybe you can relate to that.) However, ignoring my marketing propagates the feast-or-famine cycle. Sometimes a situation can look very dark in business. A recession hits and customers stop buying, or the bank wants its money back after one bad year. Investors’ performance expectations remain unmet. Perhaps a disgruntled employee decides to sue for wrongful termination. Whatever the dark situation, you’re in the thick of it. Take heart in the knowledge that this dark situation is temporary. There is a way out. It won’t be easy, but with planning, persistence, and a willingness to try new strategies, you’ll be out of the darkness before you know it. For example, imagine needing to clear a path through three acres of brush to protect your family. What were the strategic alternatives? a) Call a landscaper. Approximate cost: $1,250, due three weeks from today. b) Rent a herd of goats, complete with goat herder, and put a fence around them, like Rent-A-Goat does in California. (It’s not available in New Jersey and I wonder why, but damn, that would have been fun). Approximate cost: $800 an acre.) c) Grab my chainsaw and get to work. Perhaps my dutiful son will help. Yeah, OK. Approximate cost: less than $50, with immediate delivery, plus a lot of work for me. d) Go to the corner store in town where migrant workers gather for hire, and try to negotiate in a foreign language. Approximate cost: about $480 over two days. This situation would probably be unsafe due to chainsaws and communication barriers. Even in the darkest situation, whether it’s a forest or a business, there’s more than one way to the light. After venting— you’re human and entitled to do so—take some time to consider your strategic alternatives. From my experience, most business people forget to do this. You might even find a fun alternative—remember the goats! Consider the time, cost, and probable outcomes before deciding on the solution. Your actions under stress define the type of businessperson you are—not necessarily the things you say. The loneliest moments in business for me are when I’m having problems and no one is available to help. Like my pained body fighting the brush alone. Daunted by the task ahead of me, I decided to look back at my progress and took this photo. I hadn’t realized how far I’d come. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I knew it was close—much closer than the beginning of my path. I felt strengthened by this vision and continued my journey vigorously. If you ever find yourself in a dark business situation and need some help exploring strategic alternatives, schedule an appointment with me by emailing me at “john at pioneer business ventures dot com”. I will email you my appointment scheduler for our 15-minute telephone meeting. All I ask is that you provide the facts and limit our conversation to 15 minutes. By day, I advise established business owners on strategic alternatives. By night, during the spring and fall, I teach Strategic Business Planning. It’s what I do, and I would be honored to share my experiences with you to help you progress. Who knows? We might even find your goat.
Copyright © John McAdam 2015. All Rights Reserved.