As it’s Saturday night, we are continuing our coverage of how the lessons from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be converted to the current crisis we find ourselves in.

One of the favourite expressions amongst sports coaches is “control the controllables”. The theory is that if you do that then you will achieve the best you are capable of achieving.

A Roger Federer backhand, a Tyson Fury bob, weave and counter-punch, a Lionel Messi dribble, feint, shoot. You may remember some of these things in the dim and distant past when professional sport on the telly was a thing.

These skills are practised and honed over many years. Whilst they are not delivered at a time of the sportsperson’s choosing unlike (say) a golf shot, they each know that the opportunity will come to deliver that skill. And so they practice it in preparation for that opportunity.

But the parameters of the tennis court, the boxing ring and the football pitch are set. You know what’s in play and what isn’t. You know your opponent. You know the limited number of ways in which the contest may end. You know the rules.

In that situation, you can be pro-active. You can plan. You know what are the controllables that you can control.

There’s a lovely little line in the package we use when we do strategic planning days with clients:

“The nice thing about not planning, is that failure comes as a complete surprise unaffected by periods of doubt and worry.”

It was a great way to start some of the days that have been the best of my professional career.

But what if things are changing so rapidly that planning becomes impossible? Like now.

For owner-managers, there are 6 stages to this current crisis:

  • Stage 1. The way it was before. Dealing with whatever problems we thought were big before this all started. When Coronavirus was just a story from China. When ambitious owner-managers could utilise the 60:30:10 rule of growth strategy.
  • Stage 2. When we knew it was coming even if we didn’t know what “it” was. That short period of a few weeks when we could see what was happening in Italy, listen to the news and make plans as best we could. Controlling the controllables.
  • Stage 3. That unbelievable two-week period from Friday 13th March to the end of the month as one by one contracts were cancelled and businesses shutdown. When we acted on instinct, reacted to everything being thrown at us and dealt with whatever was the most urgent thing. Then slept and got up at 5am and did it all over again.
  • Stage 4. Where we are now. The new normal. Whatever that is for you. Hibernation, downsize, lots of demand but no supply, something completely different. Your own personal new normal.
  • Stage 5. When the UK goes through a staged release of lockdown
  • Stage 6. The way it will be after the worst is over and a new and different type of economy emerges bearing a resemblance to stage 1 but not the same

It seems to me that there are two problems with being at stage 4:

  • We have no idea how long it will last
  • We don’t really know what stages 5 and 6 will look like

Being proactive at the current time is a challenge like never before. Because we don’t know what we are being proactive for.

In fact what does “proactive” even mean? It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot and you’ll be hard pushed to find an accountant’s website built in the past ten years that doesn’t mention it. Well “pro” means before and “active” means well, we all know what that means.

It’s about making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen to you.

On that basis, stage 4 of the current crisis is just about the most important time to be proactive that there will ever be isn’t it? If only we knew what to do.

Well several of our previous emails have contained lots of advice on things you could be doing now whilst you have the time to do so including:

But these things are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you can adapt your business to generate a new source of income, do so. If you can’t, start preparing for stages 5 and 6 and make sure you are as ready as you can be when your business is able to start again. And if you’re not sure what stages 5 or 6 are going to look like prepare different plans for different versions. You’ve probably got the time.

After defeating Zora Folley in March 1967, Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. He didn’t fight again until October 1970 missing what would for most fighters be the peak of his career. But as we all know, his great successes came after his return. Whatever stage of your business career you are at, your greatest successes may still be ahead of you.

And just remember the wise words of Stephen Covey:

“I’m not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions”

Read our next article in our the Seven habits of highly effective people series: Begin with the ends in mind.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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