By Michael Gunther

It was extremely foggy and chilly this morning as I began to walk my two dogs on the beach. The fog was so thick I could barely see 40 feet in front of us. In fact, it felt almost like a movie set: contained, controlled and safe. But in reality, the roaring ocean was just a few feet away, as well as the unknown of what was further ahead.

In contrast, just a few short miles up the shore it was clear and much warmer. The sun was rising over the mountains, and it was going to be a beautiful day. Anything seemed possible as I looked across the waking city that was slowing coming alive.

This contrast had me reflecting on how many businesses are currently operating in the fog when they need to be operating in a clear and sunny environment. They’re focused on only what they see directly in front of them instead of being open to the possibilities that may be just ahead. They need to pay attention to their environment and their business.

I had a clear (no pun intended) example of this last week when I met with a potential client. They’ve been in business for more than 20 years – in fact, they have changed their business offerings three times in order to try to make it work. The recession hit them hard. They’ve increased their debt, laid off employees, and are nearing the point of closing their doors. As I explored where they were in their business, we discovered some interesting behaviors and attitudes that were holding them back (this is what I might call the ‘fog’).

The first issue was their attitudes – they kept hoping the economy was going to get better. As most are now aware, things are not necessarily changing, nor are they going to truly turn around for the positive for at least another three to four years. We all have to adjust in order to operate in this economic storm, as it’s the new reality. I’m all for hoping and having faith that things will improve, but I’m also aware of the reality of what’s happening right now.

The second issue we found holding this company back was their belief that their client profile and market for their services hadn’t changed. They had not adjusted their pricing, marketing tactics or sales process. The fact is every business has had to redefine their client profile as well as their products or services and pricing structures. Consumers are not on the old ‘spend before they have’ mentality. They’re becoming more frugal as well as making financial decisions much more carefully. Affordability is the new norm.

As I explained how these issues were holding them back, they began to understand and realize the business they had lost over the last few years because they hadn’t been willing to change. They realized that they must clear the fog from their heads in order to truly start growing their business again.

The truth is that once you understand the realities of your business and what’s happening in the economic marketplace, you can create a plan of action and change to allow you to thrive and enjoy the sunny and clear skies. Otherwise, you’re living in a state of denial and it can lead to the slow death of your business.

The Bottom Line

Are you assessing your business and the economic forces around you with the proper perspective? I encourage you to do this at least on a quarterly basis. The economy in which we’re living is fragile at best and only through consistent adjustments of our businesses and attitudes will the strong not just survive but thrive.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

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