Griggs: A general and a president — How to make your business survive

If the 18th American president lived today, you probably wouldn’t bet on him. Rated among the 10 worst, Ulysses S. Grant followed Lincoln and Johnson into the position but lost his party’s nomination for a third term. By then Grant had dropped out of the military, failed at multiple civilian endeavors, led the Union army to Civil War victory and presided over an administration wracked with scandal. His 1,200 page autobiography barely mentions his presidency.

Like Grant, you might think your story is over. Voices of angry critics are trending; the public has cancelled your start up message; the pandemic has broken your confidence.  If only you had more time, investors or better luck — you are not alone. During dark times your deliberate actions will help you realign, stand out and prosper. Here are a few suggestions.

Start by counting your pennies — The little stuff adds up — especially with finances. The lower your expenditures, the longer your leash. Dig into your finances long enough to get nervous. Lose some sleep over it. That is when your subconscious will put together awareness and solutions based in reality. When you’re tight, call people you owe and tell them personally. A little ‘heads-up’ is worth a lot of dollars. Most people will understand, especially if you have the courage to reach out.

Recall your original dreams — Go back to when you started the business, joined the effort or entered the industry. What did you imagine at that time? How did you see yourself making contributions? What made your shoulders relax? Your original vision still packs loads of star power. Like many great people have done, think of this as your guiding star. Dreams have survived wars, recessions, depressions, betrayal and even pandemics. Believe in yours.

Imagine your typical customer — Look through the eyes of one of your best customers and search for what they desire, what they fear and what boulders have rolled into their path. In other words, get a running start on what they will want in the next months or years — someone will provide it. Perhaps it will be you.

Consider your team — These are your internal customers as opposed to the ones who send you money (external customers). Include your partners and employees along with vendors and consultants. Think of how current challenges are reinventing their lives and careers. Don’t be blindsided when, after all the gardening, family time and renewed hobbies, some of them start new lives in Belize.

Don’t ignore your connections — Your goal is to be the outlier in the ways you reach out to them. Connections become prospects and prospects become (or generate) customers. I recall landing a full-rate consulting job a full 10 years after awarding someone a gift book at an event. The point is not the 10 years but a simple action that kept me in their mind and led to a positive outcome. Don’t expect to impress with a single post. Forget about standing out with a mass email. Lose the notion that your marketing piece will be opened before a competitor’s. Do something different. Do something human. Do something kind.

Write it down — An effective way to be action-oriented is to write down your goals and daily checklists. After that, you simply look at the item and then do something. Think it through before putting it on your list. Don’t rethink it later — start something when it comes up on the list. Never give a difficult item on your list time to get oxygen. Tackle it before it scares you.

General Grant won the important battles — President Grant won critical minds. Although he went bankrupt and struggled with cancer, he championed the 15th amendment banning voting discrimination based on “race, color and previous condition of servitude.” Ulysses S. Grant stopped the accepted goal of exterminating native Americans and firmly stood up to the original KKK in the postwar south. One of his generals (Sherman) explained Grant’s success as “Common-sense and unshakeable faith in victory.”

Who knows, maybe survival isn’t always leading an army, but fighting like a soldier.

Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He runs the 10-month Leadership Mastery Academy. or 970-690-7327.