Tag Archive for 'optimism'

Fertilizing the small business attitude

A group of anthropologists at Cambridge were conducting research on the concepts of pessimism and optimism. Their subjects were two young boys: one a pessimist, and the other an optimist. The pessimistic boy was put in a room full of wonderful toys. The optimistic boy was put in a room with nothing but a barrel of manure.

When the scientists looked in on the pessimistic boy one hour later they found him complaining about this toy that didn’t work, that one needed fresh batteries, the next one wasn’t the right color, etc., etc. Recording their findings, they moved on.

As they opened the door to the room where the optimistic boy was, they had to duck to avoid being hit by flying manure. Indeed, it was splattered everywhere. They found the young lad head-first in the barrel, where he was heard to say, “I know there’s a pony in here somewhere”.

Be sure to look for your pony this year. Even in 2009, it’s in there somewhere.

Recently I talked about attitude and perspective on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to see what you think and leave your own comments.

The 2009 Small Business survival attitude

We’re currently in a very challenging economic period. I use the word “challenging” rather than the technical term, “recession,” because the impact of our economic condition is different for each business. Some are really hurting, while some are doing okay. But every small business owner is justified in being concerned about the next 12 months.

As we anticipate the next “shoe” to drop – like one or two of the Big 3 auto makers going bankrupt – businesses and consumers are girding their loins in anticipation of a tough year. And that kind of fear is what causes a recession to last longer than it should.

A small business owner’s entrepreneurial traits – pathological optimism, Pollyanna playing the “glad game,” glass half-full, etc. – are especially challenged right now. Indeed, it’s in our DNA to claim Admiral Farragut’s battle cry, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” And we get frustrated when something like a recession gets in our way because entrepreneurs have the “take no prisoners” attitude.

But there is another attitude that we acquire as we make entries into our small business captain’s logbook: Discretion is the better part of valor. Right now, and for the rest of 2009, discretion is definitely the high-percentage play.

Surveying the economic landscape in front of us and trying to imagine what the near-term future will hold, hard work and stick-to-it-iveness will be as critical to small business survival this year as in any other. But we should also find a survival attitude we can default to, especially in the most difficult hours.

The unit of hours is used here because, while large business CEOs may wonder if they will survive the year, small business owners often wonder if they will survive to the next hour.

So, to help you through those hours – which this small business owner has known well – consider my 2009 Small Business Survival Attitude, “This year, I’m going to win by surviving.”

You get to define success for your organization. But there is no shame for any small business to consider 2009 a good year if it is open for business on January 1, 2010. If you do better than that, well done.

If you feel you must take a big risk in 2009, apply the carpenter’s rule of cutting: Measure twice, cut once. Make sure your capital picture can support a mistake and/or surprise. Remember that there is a very fine line separating opportunity at the leading edge and the cash-eating effects of the bleeding edge.

Frankly, when we look back on 2009, it’s likely we’ll determine that it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. But no small business will fail this year by applying discretion as the better part of valor.

In 2009, there is no shame in winning by surviving.

Recently, I talked about this on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, if you would like to listen to my thoughts on this topic. And of course, be sure to leave a comment.

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