Sunday, March 18, 2012

Effectively Managing the Ebbs & Flows in Business & At Work

I had a 3-hour breakfast meeting with my mentor John yesterday. Our mentoring relationship cuts both ways: from a business / career standpoint, John is my big brother, e.g. I want to be like him when I grow up; and I am a Human Resources SME resource to him. We mentor each other from our respective SME places, and it works well.

Our mentoring kicked off 3 years ago when John invited me to breakfast and asked me if I had ever thought about working for myself. A fellow GE alum who took the entrepreneurial plunge 20 years ago himself during an economic ebb (Or as I like to call it, a ride to the Recession Rodeo), he saw the same potential in me, for which I am eternally grateful. When a mentor appears in your path and reflects back what's in your heart and mind, unsolicited: well, that's the gift that keeps on giving.

My query for John this week was how he managed the ebbs and flows of his work and business. Our GE training especially geared us not to accept ebbs at all. My Energizer-Bunny belief system heretofore was all flow. John improvised a wave to emphasize his point to me. "It ebbs and flows all the time, it goes up and down all the time," he said. I scowled. "I don't like the ebbs at all," I replied. He grinned at me. "Get over it and move forward," he coached. "That's what my board of advisers always tells me; and you have to accept the ebbs, too. Shake it off and move on." So that's my vocational meditative focus this week: accepting the ebbs and not letting them define my strategic path and goals. His advice works for both entrepreneurs and career employees:
  • Ebbs, in business and in work, are a fact of life to be accepted / embraced;
  • Build up a great cash reserve (2 years or more is optimum) during the flow times (e.g. live and manage your business below your means, want what you have, etc.);
  • An advisory board is an essential anchor for both the ebb and flow times;
  • Be grateful and accept the gift of the flow times;
  • Always have prospective clients and new products in pipeline during both the ebb and flow times;
  • Don't take the ebbs personally;
  • Use the ebb times as an opportunity to reflect, recalibrate your strategy; re-charge professionally and personally (e.g. Sharpening the Saw, a la Stephen Covey); refresh your marketing and business plans. (My friend and colleague Lisa Jordan seconded this emotion, too.)
Gratitude today for my fellow travelers along the River of Dreams: thank you for your presence in both the ebbs and flows, as we journey together and support each other's success.

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