Unpredictability is an almost daily foe in farming – especially in the dairy business. But there may be some lessons to be learned from savvy, successful entrepreneurs, suggests Donna Every, a chartered certified accountant and director of Arise Consulting.
"Entrepreneurs who are successful during times of uncertainty are so because they don't rely on the standard approaches used in predictable times. They look for opportunities – the positives – in situations that would have been considered negatives five years ago."
"It's similar to how we deal with the weather," she adds. "Where it's sunny most of the summer, we wouldn't leave our house each morning packing coats and umbrellas. But in the winter when the weather can quickly change, we head out with a different mindset."
In business, switching gears to deal with inclement economic conditions involves adopting new perspectives and practices, she points out. Here are some of those strategies:
• Build on what you have, not toward what you want: Instead of setting goals and then seeking out the resources you'll need to meet them, assess what's available and decide what you can achieve with that. This saves time and expense of pulling together resources you might not have. It also gives you the advantage of working from your business's individual and unique strengths.
• Follow the Vegas rule: Tourists planning a weekend in Las Vegas often set aside a specified amount of money they're willing to gamble – and lose. They won't lose more than they can afford. During an uncertain economy, entrepreneurs should calculate their risks the same way. Rather than going for the biggest opportunities, look for the opportunities that won't require as much of your resources. Calculate how much you can afford to lose, and always consider the worst-case scenario.
• Join hands and hearts: Competition is fine when things are going well. But when times are tough, you need allies. Explore forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs so you can strategize to create opportunities together. With what your partners bring to the table, you'll have more strength and new options to work with.
• Capitalize on the unexpected: Surprises can have positive outcomes if you handle them nimbly and use them to your advantage. Instead of planning damage control for the next unexpected contingency, look at it as an opportunity. Get creative as you look for the positives it presents.
• When life is unpredictable, don't try to forecast: Focus on what you can do and create now rather than what you can expect based on what happened in the past. In good times, that information can be a helpful, reliable way to make predictions. But savvy entrepreneurs don't count on that in uncertain times.
Every contends there's still too much uncertainty in this country and abroad to go back to the old ways of doing business just yet. If you've survived the past five years, you've probably been relying on at least some of these strategies – maybe without even realizing it. If there are some you aren't using, consider incorporating them, she advises.