How to turn surviving into thriving

If we’re focused on thriving and growing during periods of difficulty and change, our brains look for these opportunities

David FullerWhile the overall economic numbers seem to indicate that the Canadian economy is firing on all cylinders, there are still areas geographically and by industry where businesses are struggling.

Having lived through a number of difficult times in my 30-plus years owning and running businesses, I’ve learned there are a number of ways to improve your business fortunes.

Think lean holistically

It’s natural to look for ways to cut expenses during times when cash flow is impacted by slowing sales. However, we often myopically focus on the expenses in only one or two areas.

In my book Profit Yourself Healthy, I note 107 areas in your business where you can probably find some savings and bolster your bottom line. (Email me if you would like a copy of those 107 areas.)

In addition, some business owners hastily resort to cutting jobs and marketing expenses only to regret some of those cuts later.

One study that looked at 4700 public companies before and after a recession found that those companies that didn’t cut their employees and expenses harshly, and invested in growing their business, thrived more than similar businesses in their industry that simply cut back to survive.

Grow your sales strategically

When sales start to decline, many business owners panic and rush out to find new customers. The problem with this is that it can cost up to 30 times more to find and onboard a new customer than to figure out how to sell more to your existing customers.

That’s not to say that we don’t need new customers. We absolutely do. However, we need to be deliberate and purposeful in where we’re going to spend on marketing and sales efforts.

Often there are strategies we can implement in marketing and sales that can generate more by simply focusing on results and keeping these departments more accountable.

Be aggressively positive

It’s good to be positive, but positivity alone isn’t going to get you through the tough times. In fact, studies of prisoners of war survivors found that some who tried to raise spirits of other prisoners by having them concentrate on getting out of prison by a set day suffered severe depression and often lost hope when that day passed unfruitfully.

Those prisoners who were realistic and focused on survival often did better than those who were just positive.

Being aggressively positive is different. It means that you’re not going to lose heart during difficult times but will work towards surviving and thriving during those long periods of dryness in your business.

To be aggressively positive, we need to realize that as leaders we can’t do it alone. We need to use our skills to inspire and engage our team to rise to the occasion.

Being aggressively positive means we believe we’re going to get through this difficult period we face. And we believe we will make the necessary adjustments to the business to ensure this happens while we continue to provide employment for our people and remain profitable.

Being aggressively positive means that when we’ve made strategic decisions, we will work with the vision that we will be successful and implement actions to ensure that success.

The difference between surviving and thriving is momentous and the mindset is significant. If we’re looking to just get through a difficult time, we often feel prolonged pain with every bump we face along the route.

However, if we’re focused on thriving and growing during periods of difficulty and change, our brains look for these opportunities to help us achieve our goals.

It takes effort to grow and thrive during challenging times but the energy required is often not much more than what it requires to simply survive.

Running a business is often challenging and there will undoubtedly be difficult times. But with persistence and the right mindset, we can move beyond surviving to thriving – if we’re prepared.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email

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