We can talk a good deal about financials, about cutting, ratios, compensation, all that sort of thing. You need a business strategy and the numbers will dictate a good bit of it. Study them. Even if your company is going well, have others look at them. Get their reaction. Make your strategy coexist with the numbers.
But there’s much more than that. There are some first-rate number plumbers out there who cannot direct a business successfully. Working the numbers—important as it is—is simply not enough. In fact, there are businesses out there that have been on the ropes and received a healthy cash infusion, only to slide right back on the ropes as soon as possible.
Here we pick up the issues of being in charge and believing you can do it. No sports fan of sound mind will dispute the importance of the mental side of the game. You can call it mindset, the mental game, the proper psychological approach, the inner edge—what have you—the point is the same. When a coach and a team are not ready mentally to play—to perform—the odds go way up on the losing side. Moreover, when a team goes into a game scared, or simply lacking confidence, they often get blown out.
If you are in a tough business environment you most certainly have every reason to be nervous. Your business, your livelihood, your professional reputation may all be on the line. What’s more, you have the livelihoods of any number of other people on the line as well. You have to be at your best mentally in that crucible. What’s more, you have to be so ready that you can influence the mindsets of the key people around you.
It’s okay to be nervous, but if you are besieged with doubt such that you are not embracing the pressure-packed but exciting challenge of turning your business around, you should either (a) change your mindset, (b) hire someone to run your business if you can, or (c) lock the doors. You have to be as on top of your mental state as you are the numbers to make it happen. It all flows from you, and you can’t hide. You either transmit what I call an Internal mindset or you lengthen odds of going down.
How important is this? It is so important enough that I lead off every seminar I do with what I call the internal mindset. Your mindset—how you think as you move forward—is the fuel that drives every component of your business engine. In fact, without it the engine doesn’t run.
Space does not permit me to go into the details of the internal mindset, but here are the high points. An internal mindset is based on responsibility. It means the leader takes 100 percent responsibility for how he or she feels, thinks and acts at all times. If, for example, you are feeling negative, angry, or in a bad mood, take ownership for that mood—take responsibility for it rather than blaming some external force for “making you feel that way.” Although it may be understandable for you to feel the way you do, there are indeed many people who would feel differently.
The situation is what it is. How you choose to handle it is in your control. In fact, leaders who use this technique quickly learn to ask the same question when facing any challenge: What am I going to do about it? Sometimes there is nothing you can do other than to let go and move on. Often, however, this question clears away the excuse-making and finger-pointing and generates options. Using internal mindset is something at which you consistently work. Being intelligent is not enough. I have seen brilliant minds descend into external (blaming, excuse-making, etc.) thinking, and I have seen some ordinary ones achieve great things by being internal.
The People Make the Difference
You are not going to do this alone. Be sure of that. It will be your people’s performance that will bring victory or defeat. As such, you are a coach. You have to assemble your team and get your players to play. Unless you are a one-person operation, you will rise or fall on the actions of those in your employ. Many business owners do not understand the coaching dimension. They are ready for the challenge and understand the numbers in their sleep, but they don’t coach.