Surviving Survival

I just got off the phone talking with my friend James. We spoke about how his business was doing, Guest Posting and I asked what he planned on earning this year. His response surprised me:

‘Making money’s not my focus now. I don’t really think this is the right time–I’m planning to just hold on until things get better. ‘

James is usually pretty optimistic and ‘survival’ is not part of his normal vocabulary, so i started wondering about others I know: my consulting clients, people who take my DYBO business-doubling e-course, people I meet speaking. One client wrote they food survival kits had ‘survived’ last year, but had ‘done the unpardonable — cut marketing. ‘ Another told me, ‘Well, we made it. But we cut half our sales force. ‘ And a service provider I know reduced her total payroll from 130 to 75 people in the past six months.

Even though Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has pronounced the recession over, many businesspeople are taking about one thing only: survival. They are hunkered down trying to weather the storm, but they’re doing it at the expense of building their businesses. And I believe many companies are unwittingly sacrificing their future. Here’s the typical survival strategy:

Does any of this sound familiar?

Of course survival is not all bad–not by a long shot. There’s a ‘statistic’ reputed to come from the US Small business Administration, which says 9 out of 10 new businesses don’t last five years, or something like that. The details vary with the telling but the point is well made–it is hard to keep a business profitable over the long haul, which is why so few of America’s largest companies from 75 years ago even exist today.

The good side of survival makes you ‘lean and mean, ‘ scavenging the landscape for sharp opportunities and playing for keeps.

But the dark side just ends up like a strategy for playing it safe, putting off decisions and delaying action. Of course, you may still be around when ‘things get better, but will you be in a position to take advantage of your opportunities? Perhaps–if you’ve conserved cash and preserved your ability to generate new business.

But if instead you’ve so reduced your ability to go after new deals – or if you’ve let your product languish to the point where it is no longer up to snuff–are you going to be viable? Will you be able to compete? Will you be ready to grow during the next expansion?

Transcending the Survival Mindset

We are entering what may be the greatest business building opportunity of the next decade. While most of your competitors are still in the warm sleep of survival it is time for you to prepare for bold action.

Here are some tips which will help you survive survival and climb back up the ladder of success. Note that this is not a tip list on how to survive, you’ve already done that. This is about transcending survival and thriving again.

First, recognize that your goal of survival is not a real goal–it’s a staging zone. A holding pattern. Survival is not something to commit yourself to–a commitment to survival is a commitment to a low level of existence. Think of homeless people who survive by scrounging dumpsters for food. They survive–but at what level? And for how long?

Your real commitment must be one to prosperity.

Next, recreate your vision of life beyond survival. Okay, you are still in business–congratulations. Pat yourself on the back because many aren’t. But despite the SBA statistics, this is not a cause for celebration–not yet, anyway.

Ask yourself–what are you surviving for? What will you do when the survival period is over–when you decide it’s okay to start thriving again? What will you accomplish then? What do you want it to look and feel like next year and the year after that? If your vision is simply one of staying in business, you really should think twice about why you do all that hard work.

Once you have a clear picture of where you are going–the most important thing is to increase your level of action. You may have slowed down during this survival period – making fewer sales calls, reducing your marketing and promotional efforts, retarding product development.