The Second World War was still gaining momentum when Sir Winston Churchill spoke at the Harrow School in London. It was October 29, 1941. The horrific Nazi carpet bombing known as the Battle of Britain had ended just months earlier and the United States wouldn’t officially enter the war in support of Britain until December of that year. Yet there stood Churchill in the face of overwhelming adversity admonishing the students to “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Those powerful words were just one small part of the larger speech he gave that day, yet through the years they are the ones that have continued to resonate with people as they work through difficult times. As you might imagine I have found these words to be poignant as they relate to business, especially when things get tough.
Every business will experience tough times at some point and it seems the longer a company stays in business the tougher those times will be. By taking a few lessons from Sir Winston’s speech we can help our business work through adversity and stay on the path to success and sustained growth.
Start with the right mind set. Churchill knew the conflict in Europe wasn’t going to be a short one. He also knew Britain was woefully unprepared to defend itself in a major conflict, so he committed his government to prepare for a prolonged war and to do whatever it would take to defend itself against the enemy.
What’s your mindset regarding your business? Did you get into it thinking you could make a quick buck and then exit? Or maybe with the idea of only making enough money to support yourself? If so that’s not a business. That’s a job.
Successful businesses aren’t built overnight. If you’re going to be in business do it with a long-term mindset. This way you’re not as likely to flinch when it comes to making major investments in equipment or buildings, or making business decisions with long-term implications like hiring top talent or working through the discouraging slow times that will inevitably occur.
Don’t get burned by the sunshine. Although England was separated from the WWII conflict by the English Channel, Churchill knew Hitler would eventually bring his war to the British shore. Turning a blind eye and hoping things would get better would have been as foolish as standing in warm sunshine hoping winter never comes.
Most problems in business don’t materialize out of the blue. Many have their beginnings during good times, when business is booming and profits are strong. Typically this is when business owners let their guard down. This is also when they let themselves get sloppy or undisciplined with managing their business. We tell ourselves the sun will always shine…until it doesn’t.
One of the keys to success in business is to always run it lean, even when sales are booming. This way you’ll be better prepared to handle adversity when the pendulum of business swings the other way.