Things were looking pretty grim for the people of Britain on the day Winston Churchill gave his speech at Harrow School. The outcome of the war was anything but certain. If something didn’t change soon, it appeared all of Britain would be speaking German before much longer. Yet there stood Sir Winston before a group of school boys with the unshakable conviction that the path he was on was the right one and that in the end he and Britain would prevail.
In business, just like in war, there are never any guarantees of success. Starting a business doesn’t mean you’ll stay in business. Being in business more than five years simply means you beat the early odds. And sustaining profitable growth year after year requires commitment, a willingness to change, and a lot of paying attention to what’s going on around you.
Don’t negotiate with adversity. Until Nazi Germany started dropping bombs on the heads of Brits, Neville Chamberlain’s government continued to try to appease Hitler. Churchill disagreed with this approach. As he put it, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
It’s no different in business. How often have you negotiated with adversity in the hope it would go away or resolve itself on its own, only to later find yourself wishing you’d confronted it sooner?
Taking an assertive, pro-active approach to challenges in business has a way of keeping small problems small and mitigating the damage when big problems arise.
Revisit your “why”. Churchill and Britain knew they were in a life and death struggle, but even during their darkest hours they were motivated by their drive to preserve a way of life, a rich history and heritage, and the dream of a lasting legacy. In other words they were fighting not just for survival, but for the generations of people who came before them, and the generations of people who would follow.
Fortunately for most of us business is rarely a matter of life and death. It’s usually more a matter of “wants” and “needs”. We want to earn more money. We want to take more time off. We need to take care of our customers. We need to collect more cash. We need to meet this week’s payroll.
With each of these wants and needs comes friction; friction that creates stress on both our person and on our business. When the friction becomes great enough we find ourselves asking questions like “Why do I put up with all this?”
It’s our answer to the “why” that either motivates us to soldier on through adversity or allows us to surrender. The stronger our “why”, the stronger our resolve.
Starting a business is easy. Anybody can do it. Growing a business is the tough part, and it gets even tougher when things aren’t going our way, or when we feel conditions are out of our control.
Reminding ourselves of Sir Winston’s words to “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never…” might help sustain us through the rough patches that are a natural part of every business.