When you own a business, it is inevitable that at some point you will experience crisis and disruption. The question to ask yourself is, should I pull back or lean in? Being afraid in uncertain times is normal, but fear doesn’t have to define your response. When seasons of crisis come, you can strategically pivot in the face of the unknown and lead with confidence, make solid decisions, and find a way through.
Learning from other entrepreneurs and reflecting on my own experiences, I’ve discovered this four-step process for working through a crisis.
- Recognize your situation. Being honest about the present reality can be harrowing, especially if you are entering uncharted waters. But it’s better to face the facts while you can still act. Your circumstances might be challenging, but don’t lose faith that you’re going to make it through. Some of the best moments of success come when we lean into the tension of hard realities while also remaining confident in what the future holds. To do this well, it’s helpful to recognize your emotions. Are they constructive or fearful? Are they empowering or destructive? You might not have control over what’s happening, but you do have control over how you respond to it.
- Reassess your position. Quantifying any threats puts you in the optimal position to get your mind centered on what has to be done to pivot and innovate. This involves identifying vulnerabilities, and looking for ways to mitigate risks, and taking advantage of opportunities. Because every context is unique, I recommend a three-tier approach. One is making minimal but advantageous changes to your business. Two is implementing a conservative rollback, like redirecting resources to more profitable pursuits. Three includes taking radical moves like layoffs or pivoting on your most significant products.
- Look for new opportunities. Once you’ve reassessed, you’ll have opportunities to make further strategic moves that’ll pay off not only in the present but also in the future. Maybe you uncover your team had untapped potential when they were realigned to new roles. Or maybe you discover ways of doing more with less, pivot existing products or services, or sales channels to add that you weren’t considering before. However it turns out, stay focused on opportunities so you don’t cave into fear and paralysis.
- Respond with action. It’s imperative to take action by doing the very best you can with what you have. The tendency to hesitate or try to calculate all the consequences of decisions you’re about to make is understandable. However, the surest way to fail as an entrepreneur is to hold back, to procrastinate in making decisions, to leave your customers and your team hanging. Resilience is an entrepreneur’s superpower. Nothing is as helpful or as important.
Making it work during a time of crisis and disruption is all about being proactive rather than reactive. If something doesn’t work, pivot and try something else. Take what you learn each step of the way and keep going. You’ll make it to the other side.
How can you respond more proactively when you experience disruption?