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Working Through A Crisis
by Carssue Moody

Sometimes, even with the best thought out business plan it seems as though the business’ growth is very slow – like someone who takes two steps forward and one step back instead of steady forward strides as the plan was designed. That doesn’t mean that the plan is flawed. Even if the plan allowed some calculated variances there is always something unpredictable that will crop up and divert your forward motion in another unplanned direction.

A crisis of one type or another, an unforeseen change in market trends, a big increase in the cost of supplies, a change in state or federal laws and regulations, can interfere with your finely tuned plan and force you to go back to the drawing board.

Frustrating? Definitely. But a crisis isn’t necessarily bad. In the end it could turn out to be a benefit. While searching for a better remedy you may find a better plan that can tap dance right around those backward steps.

What do you do when an unexpected snafu causes a problem within your business? As hard as you try to prevent unpleasant surprises, eventually something will appear that can turn the hum in your business into a screech. Sometimes the surprise comes right out of the blue, sometimes it’s already given you subtle hints that you’ve ignored or just didn’t recognize. Business problems come in varying degrees of seriousness. They can be anything from a software problem, a computer virus, a tax problem, a mailing that contained incorrect information, a supplier problem, all the way to something as major as a fire.

The first thing to do is study the problem carefully, rationally and logically. Keep in mind that, although it may not seem so at the time, you’re not the first to be faced with the burden of finding a solution and you certainly won’t be the last. Take a deep breath and quash that queasy feeling in your stomach with some clear-headed thinking. If you let your emotions and fear set in they’ll overshadow your ability to call on things you’ve learned that can help you find the way out. Then acknowledge the predicament to those who need to know about it and can provide help in remedying it. But if the problem can’t be corrected within a reasonably short amount of time you’ll need to gather your resolve and restrict your outward concern to a small group.

Keeping your cool ranks on the list of importance right up there with finding the best and fastest solution. No matter what it is, even if it’s a personal conflict that’s gnawing at you; you can’t let your concerns affect employees. Whether you’re the business owner or in a lead position, remember that leaders lead. If you become preoccupied with worry, others will begin to worry too. Production and sales may slow down and compound the problem. Your positive and matter-of-fact example will keep the lid on things until the problem can be resolved.

Dale Carnegie reiterates a story in his book, “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living” about Willis H. Carrier who founded the huge air conditioner company. Mr. Carrier was faced with a major crisis when he was a young man working for the Buffalo Forge Company in Buffalo, NY before he started his own business. Through it he devised a three-step method for keeping a clear head in a potentially ruinous situation. In part, this is his story:

“I was handed the assignment of installing a gas-cleaning device in a plant of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co at Crystal City, MO – a plant costing millions of dollars. The purpose of this installation was to remove the impurities from the gas so it could be burned without injuring the engines. This method of cleaning gas was new. It had been tried only once before, and under different conditions. In my work at Crystal City, unforeseen difficulties arose. It worked after a fashion but not well enough to meet the guarantee we had made.

I was stunned by my failure. It was almost as if someone has struck me a blow on the head. My stomach, my insides, began to twist and turn. For a while I was so worried I couldn’t sleep.

Finally, common sense reminded me that worry wasn’t getting me anywhere; so I figured out a way to handle my problem without worrying. It worked superbly. I have been using this same anti-worry technique for more than thirty years. It is simple. Anyone can use it. It consists of three steps:

Step I. I analyzed the situation fearlessly and honestly and figured out what was the worst that could possibly happen as a result of this failure. No one was going to jail me or shoot me. That was certain. True, there was also a chance that I would lose my position and there was also a chance that my employers would have to remove the machinery and lose the twenty thousand dollars we had invested.

Step II. After figuring out what was the worst that could happen I reconciled myself to accepting it if necessary. I said to myself, this failure will be a blow to my record and it might possibly mean the loss of my job; but if it does, I can always get another position. Conditions could be much worse; and as far as my employers are concerned, well, they realize that we are experimenting with a new method of cleaning gas and if this experience costs them twenty thousand dollars they can stand it. They can charge it up to research, for it is an experiment.

After discovering the worst that could possibly happen and reconciling myself to accepting it if necessary, an extremely important thing happened. I immediately relaxed and felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced in days.

Step III. From that time on I calmly devoted my time and energy to trying to improve upon the worst, which I had already accepted mentally. I now tried to figure out ways and means by which I might reduce the loss of twenty thousand dollars that we faced. I made several tests and finally figured out that if we spent another five thousand for additional equipment, our problem would be solved. We did this and instead of the firm losing twenty thousand, we made fifteen thousand.

I probably would never have been able to do this if I had kept on worrying because one of the worst features about worrying is that it destroys our ability to concentrate. When we worry, our minds jump here and there and everywhere and we lose all power of decision. However, when we force ourselves to face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all these vague imaginings and put ourselves in a position in which we are able to concentrate on our problem.”

Words of wisdom from a man who was tested and succeeded. Remember that you’re not the first to face adversity and you won’t be the last.