As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 21st, 2017
Sometimes in business, the going gets tough. The more I speak to entrepreneurs and to business leaders, the more I realize that almost every business either has gone through some tough times or is currently going through a tough spell. Tough times could result from the inside or the outside of the business environment. The departure of a key executive, the loss of a major account, an unexpected crisis in production or in delivery, failure in a new product, unforeseen cash flow crisis, a new entry into the market, technology that has suddenly gone obsolete, a new government regulation, an economic downturn, an unfavourable political environment. All these and more could lead to tough times. If your business has never gone through a tough time, you are in the minority.
When going through tough times in businesses, I believe that the most important thing is not to give up. Tough times do not last forever. However, surviving tough times is not easy; it requires continuous effort by those in charge of the business. Many start-ups for example fail because they give up too soon when they go through a tough spell. Larger businesses are able to keep going a little longer. Every business situation is unique and tough times differ significantly. However, business owners and business leaders need to understand the underlying reasons leading to such times. To keep going during the tough times, some action that meets the challenge head-on must be taken. Sometimes the action could be drastic and may involve making a major tough decision. I have witnessed businesses that have laid off staff, others have shut down divisions or branches or moved location.
I believe it is important to get back on track within the shortest time possible. During tough times, some business owners and business leaders spend sleepless nights thinking about how to stay afloat. They realize that the survival of their business is at stake and their action or inaction may be the final blow to the business. During such times, business leaders have an opportunity to rethink and even reinvent their overall business model. Tough times present the best opportunity to streamline business process, keep customers updated, hold on tighter to the loyal customers and come up with new business strategies.
This year has especially been a tough one for some if not all businesses. For many, it is tough trying to recover from a half year of slow business brought about by a lengthy electioneering period. It is evident that some businesses especially the smaller ones have been unable to meet their short-term financial obligations. The larger businesses having identified the threat from the political environment well in advance took measures to avert the situation but still some have been hit hard.
I believe that businesses need to embrace tough times and aim to come out of them stronger. Tough times can become our best learning experiences and they can help us build trust internally and push our businesses to a greater height. During tough times, business leaders need to communicate openly to their staff and even to their customers. We need to often reflect on the weaknesses and threats that can lead to tough times and where possible take precautionary action. If tough times happen, the faster we get out, the better it is for the business!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy