NEWS • 10 NOV 2021

The Guiding Principles

By Richard Shrapnel

There are guiding principles that will anchor you in a position of stability and, after that, strengthen and enable you to plot the safest and most effective path forward. They are common sense, but common sense is not always at the forefront in times of adversity.

1. Acceptance

The first step you must take in moving forward through whatever challenges your business, and you may be facing is acceptance. Acceptance is about release. Releasing yourself from the overwhelming problem confronting you, so you can step back and find the path forward. 

If you are overwhelmed and immersed in the middle of a problem, you have little perspective and will not be able to think clearly nor creatively.

Acceptance is not surrendering, nor is it saying that what has happened is okay. Instead, it is giving yourself some distance from the problem so you can see it from all sides and make good decisions.

Acceptance is an honest and a frank recognition of the challenges and a willingness to actively find a way forward.

Acceptance has many elements to it:

  • Accepting what has happened and adapting to the new conditions.
  • Releasing the images held of your business past and be willing to craft a new image.
  • Recognising that there will be losses, then more losses. Inevitable losses of wealth, assets, people, positions, relationships and more, many of which will be beyond your control.
  • Understanding that what you are experiencing is grieve and permitting yourself to grieve. It is an expected and honest feeling that must be allowed to work its way through.
  • Be open, truthful and honest with everyone in your life about what is happening and how you are feeling. There may well be a sense of shame and blame that your business is failing, and you must do your best to release that pain.
  • Be willing, and ask for, the help of others and do not seek to take this journey on your own.

Acceptance is a journey, and it will take time. Do not expect it to happen overnight, and the feeling of loss and grieve will be with you for some time to come. 

2. Clarity

Clarity is about bringing to the table the facts and ideas that you need to consider so as to create actions. Clarity is about knowledge.

‘Facts’ are about your situation, and ‘Ideas’ are about where you can move to. This principle is about gathering the knowledge, not about deciding what to do.

In the example of COVID-19 and the small business owner, ‘Facts’ brings absolute clarity to your financial position. And ensures you know your business's financial standing and how you and others will be impacted. This can be a complex and time-consuming exercise, and you may need the support of your Accountant to gather this information. But it is vital as you need to understand the financial impact of the loss of your business. Often, guarantees, the ownership of assets, and how debt flows through corporate structures are not clear.

Ideas is brainstorming. For example, a list of:

  • How may you lift the revenue of your existing business?
  • What opportunities may exist where your business can pivot into new markets, emerging needs etc.?
  • What resources and capabilities does your business possesses that may be leveraged into these new opportunities?
  • What do you simply need to close as quickly as possible?
  • Where can you make deals with suppliers, competitors and others to strengthen the business?

It is during this ‘Ideas’ section that the importance of the people within your business will become clearer as some will be key people who must be retained for the future.

‘Ideas’ tend to fall into openings, closings and deals.

3. Action

Acceptance and clarity will provide the foundations for tomorrow – to plan to exit and close down what is necessary to survive and cut your losses. And to see what opportunities you can open for your business so that it may find new footings and grow into whatever shape or size may make sense.

Action is about developing your game plan. Yes, your initial game plan will evolve as you seek to make it a reality, but you still must spend the time to create it and put pen to paper in writing it up. Your game plan will not only be your guide and reminder of what you’re intending to, but it also becomes your ‘security blanket’. Having a clear written action plan reminds you that you have a plan, you are moving forward, and there is a future. This reassurance is vital during the difficult journey forward and will help to reduce anxiety and stress.

In developing your game plan, the first key question to ask and answer is whether there are any ‘non-negotiables’? For example, are there any assets that are vital to your future business or you? Are there certain liabilities you must discharge to remove the liability exposure of a family member who stepped up as a guarantor when you most needed their support? These are actions that you see as a priority. And then, your game plan may be developed with these non-negotiables front and centre.

Your game plan will likely include actions that seek to:

  • Plug the holes
  • Cut the losses
  • Defer payments
  • Seek relief
  • Retain capability
  • Cash up where possible
  • Find new opportunities now
  • Drive revenue, and
  • Look for support

4. Champions

Strength through unity and humility should be your mantra. Do not try to undertake the journey of closing down all or parts of your business and then restarting by yourself.

‘Champions’ are your ‘Team of Three’ and represent the tipping point in your journey through adversity. They are your body and business guards and are vital to your safe and strong journey through adversity.

The role of your champions is to support you and your role is to allow them to do this. This is where humility plays such an important part, being your willingness to be open and honest with your ‘Team of Three’. And to take on board their advice, suggestions and concern for your welfare. The first conversation you will likely have with your team will be your action plan.

But there are right and wrong people to ask to be members of your team. Let’s start with the wrong people first; you should not approach persons who:

  • Have a financial interest in your business as that interest will bias their presence no matter how hard they try to be independent. I do not include spouses and partners in this exclusion, but at times existing professional advisors might need to be excluded if their focus is the continuity of their professional fees.
  • Are more interested in themselves than helping others – pride, ego, selfishness.
  • Have no real interest in you or your business but will join in if there is a dollar in it for them.
  • Are full of doom and gloom and always quick to point out everything you have ever done wrong in life and business.

The right people to search out are those who:

  • Have a heart for you and your welfare.
  • Know you well.
  • Have a good business mind.
  • Want to see you succeed.
  • You trust without hesitation.
  • Will be honest and frank with you.
  • Are of integrity.

It’s unlikely that not anyone will possess all these traits, but as a team, this is what you should ideally aim for.

Your team of three, find a name for them if you like, will be your advisors, supporters, cheer squad and counsellors. You should be meeting with them at least fortnightly and speaking to individual members throughout that period.

5. Be Real

Be authentic to who you are as a person, business leader and what your business stands for. Please do not abandon your principles and values in the face of adversity but allow them to be your strength.

‘Being Real’ is about being true to yourself, who you are as a person and not surrendering yourself to adversity.

As adversity confronts you and you find yourself being overwhelmed, you can easily forget who you are and begin to do things and take actions that you will later regret.

If you do not have a clear view of your values and principles, reflect on how you expect others to treat you, the way you ask your staff to treat customers, and how you want your spouse/partner, children, and parents to be treated. This is a starting point to consider values and principles, which you can then share with those close to you, who know you well and your champions - so begin to create a list.

As an example, my values are Courage, Determination, Humility and Love. And I seek to consistently support others to be successful in their lives. So, any actions I take I measure against this benchmark. What is your benchmark?

6. Care

The core strength of your business rests in you as an individual and the energies and ideas you can bring to your business. You must care for yourself as a priority. Suppose you cannot sustain and strengthen your physical, emotional and mental condition and resilience. In that case, you will not bring your best to the table and may fall short of your goals.

Care is about your personal wellbeing and strength to endure and sustain yourself through the journey of adversity. This journey will require physical fitness and clarity of mind, peace within yourself, creativity, and strength in relationships. 

There are many ingredients that you can add into your care programme, and the following categories will assist you in developing a sequence that is right for you:

  • Attitude: creating a positive attitude to the challenges that are present, including continuing to focus on release, being led by your game plan, sustaining a ‘close of day’ routine where you finish your work and rest, and a ‘start of day’ routine where you wake up thankful for the day ahead.
  • Openness: creating space in your body to release tension and stress through breathing, stretching and sensible exercise.
  • Peace: creating a peace in your mind that flows through your entire body, and life, through meditation, connecting with others, being with family, and if relevant, turning into your faith.
  • Energy: creating the energy to invigorate and sustain you through eating and hydrating well, sleeping well and getting plenty of hugs.

You should never sacrifice your care programme because you are too busy.

7. A Light

Always seek, find and hold onto the light in your life, business and work. That light represents hope and joy and allows you to overcome any adversity that may try to match and defeat you.

A Light is about your safety rope to pull you through adversity.

When you are up against it, and you are literally losing everything you have worked for and love, and you can’t see the opening, it can become very dark very quickly. And in that darkness, there can only be loss.

Never allow that darkness to settle upon you or someone for who you are a champion.

Your light can be your partner, family and friends. It can also be the new future you are creating as you allow the past to stay behind. And it can also be simply stubbornness where you refuse to let this adversity win.

Whatever it may be, find that light, hold onto it and never let it dim nor disappear.

Partnership In The Seven 

The seven principles work as one set to allow you to journey through adversity. You may start at Principle One, but it’s not a linear progression as you will continue to work on all seven principles until your journey is completed. 

There is, I believe, a tipping point at which the scales shift dramatically in your favour, and that is when you are working your way through Acceptance, Clarity and Action and you recruit your 'Team Of Three' (your Champions). And with that team in place, you are strengthened and ready to move forward into building a new future.

I also believe that the seven principles connect and support each other as follows:

  1. Your ability to achieve Acceptance is supported by the strength of the Light you hold, as that compelling view of the future allows you to release the past.
  2. Clarity is achieved much quicker when a strong Care programme is in place, as care brings with it a clear and creative mind that sees opportunity.
  3. Your action plan will emerge quicker when you have nailed what Being Real means, as your choices will become clearer.
  4. And when your Champions are beside you, will no longer be journeying alone.

Be very clear with yourself; there is a journey that you are about to embark on as you confront the business challenges that this season is presenting. You will need to fight and draw upon all your resources and strength in this journey, these principles will guide you on this journey.

The Journey Through Adversity is drawn from Going Broke Staying Sane, the succinct guide for those facing the loss of their business and offers support to journey forward through this adversity and emerge intact using seven principles to adopt as you start over.