Business is full of ups and downs. These are created by a combination of market forces, luck and our preparedness. We, the entrepreneur or business owner, also go through ups and downs. When both our business and ourselves are experiencing an up, here’s what can happen.
On one hand, it’s pretty fantastic when opportunity joins with strength and will. Just two years ago the planets aligned to give me a chance to straight-shoot a new client who was (ordinarily) way out of my league. But I was in a particularly “go get it” mood at the time, the group wanted what I had to offer and, long story short, I nailed it and we’ve had a great thing going on ever since.
On the other hand, it can be disastrous. When I’m ‘up’ and the business is up, the money I have on hand often gets poured into some hare-brained, half thought through “opportunity” and, effectively, cast to the wind! Have you ever seen all your savings washed away by one mistake? I did that last year, thinking a particular conference was the opportunity of the year. Only to find out it was a complete waste of time and money.
Ah hind sight can be such a friend. So how can we insure against the downside of this “up/up” alignment in the future? Here are four practical business tips.
1. Get some boundaries.
In trading commodities you set a cage – an upper and lower limit that will trigger if your predictions are wrong. In an auction you would give yourself a maximum upper limit, above which you refuse to buy the property. You need to find similar kinds of boundaries to apply to your business when things are particularly buoyant.
2. Allow someone to tie you to the mast.
Who do you have in your world or on your team that has permission to call you on the big decisions. For solopreneurs this is probably your spouse or long term partner. For me it is my business partner. Great leaders will allow others to call them on the high risk decisions.
3. Know when to say no before you have to say no.
Willpower is a limited resource. Things can look so attractive and so tempting at the time and you are probably going to give in. So decide in advance when to say no before you have to. This is called making an agreement with your future self.
4. Have someone dispassionately check your “great” idea
Is there someone completely outside your world, your industry, your orbit that can get a clear look at this opportunity. Maybe it’s a business mentor, or a parent, or a friend who is overseas. If you can’t reach them, you can still adopt their position and ask “what would so and so think of this?”
Remember the good times in your business should both be savoured, and used as an opportunity to grow. If you’re going to take a risk, make sure it’s a calculated one. The best kind of safety nets (a healthy bank balance for example) are ones that you never need to use.