Imagine yourself in this situation:
Your company is scheduled to work a special event on a cruise ship departing the next day from Florida. You and your team are in California.
Everything is going as planned. Everyone made it to the airport on time, nobody is sick, you even have time to gather at the bar for a pre-event discussion.
Then the information display board for your flight begins flashing “Delayed.” You rush to the gate to find out what has happened. You’ve a bad feeling in your gut.
Fast forward to the next morning and your weary, red-eyed team is ready to board the ship. There’s a problem, though: your luggage didn’t make it to Florida with you.
You’re not only missing the clothes you need for work, but a critical piece of equipment was checked as well.
What do you do when your plans go sideways in a hurry?
Cruise ships aren’t like airplanes. You can’t just wait a while and catch the next one leaving town. Once the ship has sailed, you’re either on or off. You’re either going or not.
Reluctantly, you put down the telephone, stop begging the airline customer service agent to “do something,” and get aboard. Your team starts work in tee shirts and shorts, minus an essential ingredient that will soon be needed.
Just before the captain orders the gangway raised, though, a white van hurries to dockside and honks. The airline found and delivered everything you were missing.
Could you feel the tension?
Turns out that scenario is a true story – one told to the Main Street Hustle by Elizabeth Bougerol and Evan Palazzo, founders and leaders of The Hot Sardines, one of the hottest jazz bands on the planet.
Which got us to thinking:
How can an entrepreneur stay cool under pressure and still get the job done? Is there a magic formula for dealing with stress?
The one thing a small business leader must do under pressure
Bougerol and Palazzo can laugh about the lost luggage incident now, but they sure weren’t laughing when it happened. Not only could the band have been hard-pressed to come up with suitable clothing for the week-long gig, one more delay might’ve forced them to miss the boat altogether.
Once the crisis was over and they could take time to sit down and think about what happened, the first order of business was to create a rule about the minimum acceptable time gap to allow between the airport and the job.
“Learn from your mistakes, then make adjustments to avoid repeating them.” That’s an essential element when dealing with the aftermath of upheaval. Call it a “post-mortem review,” a “debrief,” or whatever you want.
Just do it.
There’s another huge take-away, though, one The Hot Sardines drew from that and similar incidents.
Bougerol put it like this:
You have to be unflappable, because the musicians can't look at you as a leader and see you freaking out. It's like you're on the plane and if the pilot sounds like he's freaking out, then everybody's going to panic. You have to be completely calm and you also have to be completely calm for the people who've hired you and who've sold a lot of tickets, and to whom you have to deliver the news.
But how can you be “unflappable” in the midst of turmoil and frustration? What can you do when the cards seem stacked against you?
Two plans that can save your butt
There are two terms that may sound complicated, but they’re really not. Once you grasp these concepts, you’ll see why companies that live and breathe by “The show must go on” wouldn’t think of doing without this pair of save-your-butt plans: contingency and mitigation.
These concepts may be critical to helping your business recover quickly from a potential or actual disaster.
Mitigation plans avoid problems in the first placeMitigations are acts you take to reduce the potential of a problem occurring in the first place and increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes.
You know batteries are apt to run low on power, so you put fresh batteries in your microphones before the show. You’ve discovered that getting from one place to another can sometimes take considerably longer than expected, so you leave early and give yourself sufficient buffer. Mitigations are pre-problem steps that can sometimes prevent trouble from happening in the first place.
Contingency plans define how you react“Contingencies” are unforeseen events that are unpredictable and can affect the outcome of your activities. Your contingency plan considers the possibilities and prepares a set of actions you and your team can take should something unexpected happen.
Carrying a spare tire, purchasing travel insurance, keeping back-up equipment handy – all are actions aimed at preparing for contingencies. To develop your contingency plan, list the essential pieces of your business, then ask “What if?”
Five steps you can take to stay cool under fire
These five no-nonsense suggestions incorporate the ideas just discussed, then add a little glue to the formula:
Follow the five-point path above, and you’ll be way more likely to accomplish the jobs you say you’ll do.
Maybe more importantly, your employees and clients will soon see that you’re a person who stays calm and keeps going strong ... no matter what gets thrown at you.
That’s the essence of entrepreneurial character and self-determination.
Oregon-based writer, Don Sturgill, specializes in helping businesses optimize their online reviews and reputation. Find out more about his work at Best Place Reviews.
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