Leave the Baggage Behind.
In the divine words of Madness, ‘Tomorrow’s just another day’. But there is always something symbolic about the passing of a year. As 2021 draws to an end, it’s naturally a time to reflect on what the last year has brought.
For small business owners across the world, the last two years have brought unprecedented challenges – from lockdowns to health and wealth concerns.
It’s natural to be apprehensive about what the year ahead holds for us and our families. But I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas of how we can head into 2022 with confidence.
There are so many great reasoning’s to this metaphor, but here is the first..
Learn to leave the baggage behind
Take time to reflect on 2021. Find the positives and appreciate the things that have gone well for you. Acknowledge the things that didn’t go so well, but let’s focus on improving the outlook for the year ahead.
If you are still in business after the global pandemic, then congratulations, it’s been a heck of a challenge. You’ve learned and demonstrated some new skills, and deserve a medal.
For those that took a second job, or role to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head, this took courage and I know your entrepreneurial spirit will soon recharge and be ready to fly again soon.
Whatever passed, we cannot change it now but we can learn from it. Acknowledging things and leaving the emotional baggage behind, closing that difficult chapter, allows us to put our energy and focus into rebuilding.
Similarly, in our workspace and our homes, a de-clutter to start the year can help us gain focus on what’s important, and jettison the things slowing us down.
Clean up your company
Motivational speaker and author, Jim Rohn said, “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” Jim was speaking of the entrepreneurial mindset and how people grow when surrounded by others with personal drive and determination to succeed.
But the same is true of our social network and the information we feed our mind with. Who we spend time with influences our mindset and behaviour.
Louise, a business owner I spoke with recently, explained to me that ‘Ignorance is bliss’ when it comes to the media and the constant Corona Virus messaging. She found that switching off from notifications and the world of 24/7 news allowed her to focus on her business with fewer distractions, or anxiety.
The lesson here: Focus on the things we can control and create our own narrative.
Thousands of years ago, the wise proverb said to ‘guard your mind’.
Wisely choosing what we allow to fill our mind with, and the people we surround ourselves with should be top of our 2022 agenda.
Resilience – a learnt and practised behaviour
One thing that struck me through 2020-2021, is that resilience is a behaviour and a mindset that can be taught, learned and practiced.
We see it regularly in the armed forces, and most recently we have seen small business owners adapting and changing to the ever-changing conditions around us.
On an island surrounded by water, it’s easy to have a love of the ocean and since a little boy, I’ve always wondered how ships survive at sea during a storm.
Many a ferry journeys to France as a teen, and I’ve witnessed the sound effects of hundreds of passengers’ being sick, whilst towering walls of water smash against the sides of the ship.
As I began to research this article, more similarities between life aboard a ship and our world of small business stood out.
When interviewed about life at sea, Fred Pickhardt, Chief Meteorologist at Ocean Weather Services commented ‘Storms are part of life at sea. If a ship is in the ocean, you are going to have heavy weather.’ In business we can often have a run of years, or decades of great business and start to forget that we will always face tougher times, they are almost a certainty we should be prepared for.
Pickhardt, went on to say ‘ships are typically on a very tight schedule. Just the fuel alone on ships can be tens of thousands of dollars a day, so a two or three-day delay or deviation can cost big bucks, so they always want to minimize it.’
Most modern ships are designed to tough out the roughest weather and stay on schedule, but hurricanes are the biggest and most dangerous storms and no crew wants to be caught out in those!
The storms in small businesses can be equally devastating, especially if we run on tight margins, have a small war chest, or are saddled with debt. Delays can prove fatal for businesses that trade time for money, like tradesmen or contractors.
Whilst Columbus sailed by the stars and sailors in the 1900s received weather reports by Morse code, today’s Captain’s steer clear of hurricanes, physical and financial ruin by having clear accurate weather information.
In the era of a professional business owner, we too can receive the weather maps and satellite images of how our business is performing at any time. Tools like Xero and QuickBooks allow us to accurate information to steer clear of financial disaster, it’s imperative we know the numbers.
This leads me to the most dangerous type of ship. An empty one. When a ship is full of cargo, it weighs the vessel down against the waves, having a stabilizing effect. A full order book, controlled cash flow and reserves act as that ballast in our business. It gives us time to make decisions and react.
Former sea captain Max Hardberger explained, “When you have only ballast water way down in the bottom of the ship, the ship has a very wicked roll to it. I’ve been on ships, for example, where we would go from thirty degrees heeled over on one side, and we would whip across to thirty degrees heel on the other side in a matter of three and a half seconds, so you can imagine something like that will roll your eyeteeth out.”
It’s easy to lose control and any sense of direction in these situations, especially if we are running on empty physically and emotionally as a team. This is why our business needs a skilled Captain or professional business owner.
When you are desperate for a solution, it’s easy to look for any port in a storm.
But cargo ships don’t always head for the nearest port when trouble is on the horizon. Not all ports offer the same protection or are equipped to help with their problem. The wrong port can even be more disastrous than riding out the storm at sea.
It’s easy to look for quick wins when troubles beset us in business; likewise, not every solution is right for our business, or us as an owner.
Having a plan before we set to sea, will help us navigate the toughest of storms.
I couldn’t have put it better than how Hardberger sums it up, ‘Winning a fight against the sea depends on having a well-maintained ship, a trained and experienced crew, and a healthy dose of good luck.’
We’ve learned and practised that resilience.
And, now with a little luck on our side, we’ll storm through 2022.