Surviving, thriving in a downturn

Milton Kamwendo Hunt for Greatness
Many people reading this instalment if they live in Zimbabwe will remember the experience of being a multiple trillionaire overnight and waking up the next day with little or nothing. The times of hyperinflation were mad times. Hyperinflation cannot be emotionally understood from Economics textbooks, it can only be experienced. Telling a generation unborn about it will surely sound like the Hare and Jackal tales. When money becomes funny it is not a joking matter. When people lose lifetime savings as though it’s evaporating methylated spirit, it’s a bitter and damaging experience.

Post 2009 in Zimbabwe it felt as though the worst was now over and behind us. Little did we know that we would move from one end of the pendulum to another: a move from hyperinflation to deflation. How does one survive these times of financial turbulence?
Review Your Priorities

Priorities are not simply the things you do, but the things you do first. When seasons change, priorities must also change in tandem. In times like these it is important to review your priorities rigorously. Mindless and unprofitable growth cannot be sustained. Indisciplined spending is suicide. Bloated costs will not easily go away without future nightmares.

Unless you do some surgery on your priorities you will soon be roasted alive. Changed times call for changed priorities. Things that mattered in hyperinflation are different from those that matter now. Hoarding goods you do not need in deflation will only burn and fry you in deep fat. In hyperinflation getting payment was easy, preserving value was tough. In deflationary times, you need prayer, courage, persistence, pushing, following up, threatening and everything you can do to get payments in on time. Collections are no longer the job of some clerk or intern who joined yesterday.

See Opportunity
What you do is determined by what you see. You can choose to either see danger or opportunity. Problems are baits of greatness for those willing to see differently. Whatever the times, never lose vision. We may all be in a deep hole but never forget that there are stars in the sky that you can gaze at. Being negative and gloomy may get you a lot of gloomy and grumpy friends. However, this will do little for your creativity and innovation. Cynicism is not sainthood. Complaining is not a solution or a strategy of greatness.

That high wall that you are afraid to scale, could be tunnelled under. That thorny bush, could just be a rose stem. The mess you find yourself in could be your opportunity to rethink your business model and undertake changes that could have been difficult during the days of plenty. Think in new boxes, not just in old tired boxes. Never lose hope. Never get tired of trying and reaching forth. When you lose hope and stop trying, you are really defeated. Being defeated so easily is to waste opportunity. Trying times are never the times to stop trying.

Think in New Boxes
There is nothing as stifling as being in a box without windows. In life there are many mental boxes. The cliche is usually, “Think outside the box.” The challenge with this statement is that it is impossible to do. To understand reality you will always need a box or context. To shed new light you have to change the context. Changing the context means adopting a new box.

If you think you are a victim, everything you see around you spells limitations. However, if you adopt the box of abundance you start seeing possibilities beyond your wildest dreams. What new boxes do you need to adopt? What new model could you use to look at your circumstances? What boxes that used to work do you need to discard?

Never let history or adversity box you in. Adopt new references that make history just what it is — a fact of life and not a crutch or eternal convenient multi-generational excuse. Knock the socks off your excuses, they are not a badge of honour.

Reassess Your Strategy
Nothing fails like success. A strategy that worked in the past will not keep working forever. Reassess your strategy. In particular re-visit your business model. Copying what the company down the road is doing is not strategy. Imitation without understanding the underlying strategic logic will land you in a desert without a map or water. You need to be clear about your winning formula, battle arena, game plan and the capabilities that you need to give battle. Re-examine your strategy and give it new legs. An old limiting strategy is just mental leg-irons. Ensure that your strategy is fresh and has motivational power. A strategy to lose is not a strategy. Hope alone is not enough a strategy for winning in turbulent times. Refuse to be made irrelevant by change.

Look Beyond Your Nose
Parents have always advised: “Look before your leap.” In times of change, like the times we are in it is important to think further that your past, village and circle. Expand your thought horizon. Network beyond your native groups. No one group of customers can supply you with all the customers you need. Define your market beyond traditional boundaries. See your customers from a different view. Think about the needs of the customers and not the confines of the product you deliver. Look beyond the past limitations and the current technology you are using. Think about your customer’s new problems and supply new solutions. You will never die, until you give up and stop trying. You do not have the luxury of changing at the pace of your convenience, change now or become history.

There are infinite possibilities in times of change. Refuse to be a victim and think that everyone owes you a living and is the cause of your misery. It is sad to endure times of pain, only to be irrelevant and fail to live through the seasons of gain. Do not die in your winter or wither in the storm. Keep on moving straight ahead. Someday, the storm will be over and when this happens be found, sweating yes, but still holding the steering wheel and moving forward with vision and resolve.

Expect great things. Committed to your greatness.

Milton Kamwendo is a leading international speaker, author, business consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>.

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