Of Fear and Stimulus

Stimulus is everywhere these days. In the daily news. In our conversations. In our hoped for future. But what is actually ‘stimulating’ in your company? The word, “stimulus” means something that generates a response.  In these times we think we need a stimulus to bolster us and our economy out of the alligator pit of economic quicksand. Yet stimulus can be self-generated.

In today’s economy, it is very easy to slide into a sense futility about the future. There is evidence to support the belief of a gloomy future for you and your employees everywhere you turn today. From your accountant telling you that you had better ‘cut costs’ to your customers telling you to ‘cut your prices or we’ll have to ‘cut you’. Chilling words for any investor, CEO, business partner or stakeholder.

How you think about this time in your company’s life will determine what happens to it in the future. If you think about what you don’t want to have happen, if you think about what people aren’t doing right, if you dwell upon all the bad things that might happen, if you issue dire warnings and pepper your speech with ‘hard line’ adjectives you will likely get a continued diet of uncertainty, fear and gloom. Is that what you really want?

If it isn’t, then the first place that you need a ‘Stimulus Plan’ is in your own mind. Check in with your inner chatter. Do you like what you hear? Would you be motivated to move mountains for this person if they spoke to you like that day in and day out? Most of us wouldn’t, but we indulge ourselves in fear mongering and criticism or judgement anyway, planting seeds of doubt wherever we go. Then we don’t like how we feel after a daily diet of it so we pretend that dialogue is coming from somewhere else and park the blame for having to feel its affects on other people – employees, managers, assistants, spouses, the dog. Like Newton’s law of movement, our lovely thoughts ripple out of us into our environment and then we are aghast at being awash in all this negativity.

Don’t like this picture? Turn up your ability to listen to your inner chatter and change the conversation. Drop the adjectives (adjectives are embellishments). State what is actually true for you, and your situation (Just the facts Ma’am).

Most company owners we know aren’t sure what to do at this point in the history of their companies. Cut, expand, stall, improve, tune up, turn down, refocus, fire, hire, lecture, cajole, demand, placate, downsize, right size, grow, pare, acquire, divest, drag, wait, hurry.

None of these directions will help unless you know where you are going and why you want to get there. Grow? How? Sell? To whom and at what loss? Retool? Will customers like it? Will it pay off? You are not asking the right questions therefore you won’t get to the answers or plans that make sense, sit right and, most importantly’ that will get buy in from your stakeholders.

How you choose to face your reality is the first step in knowing what you want. Here is an example of a game plan you could steer toward. Each statement starts with what you want to have happen and then a statement about what actually happens. Try writing one for your company and see what you find out.

1. The truth is, we are experiencing (list pains, gains, attitudes of employees, managers, customers and stakeholders). What frustrates me most is…

2. What I/We really want is to grow X% per year and sell to a strategic buyer in 3-5 years. The truth is, we don’t know how to do that. Do we make enough money and sell the right solutions now to be attractive to a strategic buyer?

3. What our customers really need are solutions to the problems they care about in a way that is easy, hassle free and affordable. Their success becomes our success. We actally don’t know if we are selling to the right target market, with the right solutions in the right way that is experienced as hassle free. But we like to think we are.

4. Our internal systems give us the data we need to manage our company day to day. Actually, the truth is, I don’t know what data to pay attention to and I’m very attached to certain reports and probably don’t get other indicators that would tell me how to get better performance.

5. Our people know how to deliver on what the business development/sales/front line people promise. Actually the truth is, this is pretty hit and miss. There is a lot of miscommunication about how to do that and departments that should work together aren’t. They point fingers rather than refine processes.

6. Our culture is one of mutual respect, excitement and self-responsibility. People want to work here. Actually, I don’t want to work here some days. Its frustrating, irritating and feels like I’m dragging a lot of resistant people around all day long.

So take a minute and write up your own version of this list. Then ask yourself if you feel Inspired? Deflated? What do you want to about it? You do have the power to change it.

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