How can you weather the ups and downs of your company?
When things are going well, we often forget the low points. But as with anything in life, there are times of success and times of strife. So how do you keep a team level-headed when it comes to the rollercoaster world of business?
Dr. Dave Hopson is a retired recon Marine and earned his PhD while studying under the great Peter Drucker. Currently, he's the managing partner at Triumphus, which offers managing IT consulting services from startup to exponential growth to IPO. His book is Surviving the Business Storm Cycle: How to Weather Your Business's Ups and Downs. I recently interviewed Dan for the LEADx podcast, in an effort to gain the secret to navigating through any weather. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: Big picture: what is the ‘business storm cycle?’
Dave Hopson: From a real high view, we often look at businesses in a linear fashion, over time or over revenue. But the point is that you go through fits of growth and fits of consolidation throughout a company's life, and you have to respond differently both with people, with process and sometimes technology to weather both the huge growth cycle as well as the consolidation phase. If you do the three right, you can make them scalable so that you quickly can adapt to that change in the cycle such that the hurt on revenue and margins is minimized.
Kruse: You referenced the ‘Business Triangle’ and the three different parts that need to be in balance. What are those?
Hopson: I look at it like an equilateral triangle. ‘Technology’ at the base, you have ‘People’ on one side, and ‘Process’ on the other. You have to adapt all three of those to where you are in the current cycle. Failure to do one of those three sides will cause more hate and discontent than you really want, and probably cause you to flame out. But the ‘People’ part is obviously the hard part.
Getting people to buy into change, especially on the consolidation side, they just flamed out from a huge growth spurt. Everybody's feeling like a failure, and this is where our management skills come into play. This is where we really have to tell them that it's nobody's fault; we're going to consolidate here and do it again and it's a normal cycle. It's a hard leadership time. It really is.
Kruse: What would you say to a young manager to help them apply this idea of the business triangle and storm cycles?
Hopson: I think one of the key reasons why I wrote the book is it's a new view of how to look at the business rather than linearly, and to educate your team and to lead from that point of view that “This is normal. We're going to go through this cycle. We're going to bring all the people and process with us that we can. The technology is not a magic bullet. There's no black box to plug in and make all this go away, and don't worry, we're going to go back through the cycle again and we have to be ready.” At the mid-level or even the entry level of management, the first thing to do is to understand it, and the second thing to do is to share it in a non-violent–I shouldn't say violent, I'm a Marine–but in a ‘non-attack mode’ kind of way, so you're not bringing down what executive management is saying, and you're not nay-saying what the economy's doing. You're just saying, “Look, this is a different way to look at it than you learned in school,” but it makes sense if you look back over. Pick a company: Apple, Gartner, any of them, and they do this over and over again, and they reinvent themselves. And that's what we're in the stage of: “Don't get discouraged.”
Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to get 1% better every single day, so what's something that you can challenge them to do today?
Hopson: I read another book–I probably would not plug it, but I read it recently–by another guy that's like me, a management thinker. And so what he is encouraging all of his managers to do is to unplug. Once a day for one hour, turn off the phones, turn off your monitor, sit back, close your eyes and think about something that's important that needs to be done. Not urgent.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.