It was an especially nice Irish day, which means it wasn’t raining. Emily, Isabel and Aisling had just been dropped off by their uncle at a train station in the middle of the country. The girls proceeded to the ticket counter, where they realized they were 10 euros short of what they needed to get home.
Panic ensued since they had no way to reach their uncle. How would they catch the train in 30 minutes without enough money to buy the tickets? Should one of them be left behind? Should they sneak onto the train and hope no one checked for tickets? Or should they just beg for money?
In business, too, panic can ensue when we’re short of money.
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This week, I was coaching a business owner who had put her life savings into her enterprise and then found it wasn’t working. Her train had left the station without her and taken all her customers. She was starting to panic and asked if I could help.
Having been in a similar situation in 1999 after opening a new business where things had not gone the way I expected, I thought I could help. I also had experienced the stress created when bank managers deny you additional bridge loans. Panic builds when you realize you can’t pay your staff and you don’t have credit left with your suppliers for the products you need to fill your shelves.
I knew that she would have to act quickly and decisively.
They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. My client and I brainstormed ways to generate cash for her business. We talked about how the first option to every problem is to do nothing. But doing nothing was not viable – she would have to declare bankruptcy if she continued to do things the way she’d been doing them. She had to change her strategy.
A study of several thousand business owners by the Napoleon Hill Foundation found that leaders who could make quick, smart decisions in times of difficulty, and follow through with those plans, were significantly more successful than owners who waffled when it came to making important decisions about the future of their enterprises.
When we’re faced with difficulty, we need to look at all our options and pick the one that has the best chance of success. Then we must take steps to implement that plan.
The problem for many of us when faced with difficult or life-changing decisions is that we freeze. We know we should take action but we’re scared of the possible consequences of making a change. It’s always easier in the short term to continue doing what we’re familiar with. We prefer to walk the easy road instead of facing our fears head-on and making the changes we know will be life-giving in the long run.
Emily, Isabel and Aisling had a tough choice to make. As teenagers, they didn’t have the life experience you and I have. They were scared by their options but had to do something or the train would leave the station without them. Facing their fears, they started begging for money. They went from person to person in the station asking for coins that would help them pay for their tickets so one of them wouldn’t be left behind.
They told me they were embarrassed by what they had to do but didn’t see any other option. Luckily for them, the Irish are a generous bunch and in a few short minutes they had enough to buy their tickets for the ride home.
It’s going to take my client more than a few minutes to turn her situation around but she told me she’s committed to change. She left our meeting with 12 possible strategies to resolve her situation. She chose one that made the most sense to her. It wasn’t the strategy she imagined for her business when she opened two years ago.
However, she’s no longer frozen by indecision – she’s taking steps to put the plan into action.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc.
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