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How Great Leaders Thrive in Tough Times

A friend sent this to me this morning, we try to encourage each other daily. I think it is appropriate for this industry and for those that are striving to be leaders in their companies, dealership or department...Strive for greatness!...Enjoy!

From Inc.com, StartUp Blog
October 21, 2008
How Great Leaders Thrive in Tough Times
Posted by DAVID MAMMANO at 11:32 AM

Chester Arthur, who served as President of the United States from 1881 to 1885, will never be regarded as one our great leaders. In fact, many Americans would be hard pressed to identify him as one of our presidents.
Arthur, who served after President Garfield was assassinated, may well have possessed the basic qualities of a great leader. But the time of his presidency was fairly stable, so he was never called upon to step up.

Tough times, on the other hand, are when great leaders show their stuff. If you look at many of the famous leaders throughout history, you'll notice they became famous because they navigated through seemingly impossible times. They held the flashlight at the end of the tunnel.

Legendary leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and, more recently, Rudy Giuliani come to mind. All were faced with incredibly complex or catastrophic situations. Instead of cowering in indecision, they reacted boldly and aggressively. They threw conventional wisdom out the window and developed their own playbooks on the spot.

So what does this have to do with entrepreneurs? In short, it's time to step up as leaders of your enterprises. Extremely difficult economic times are here and may be here to stay. You're time to shine is here.
So what is a business leader to do? The reflexive action is to take a hatchet to the budget, impose layoffs and halt all plans for growth. These steps are relatively easy to take, so leadership skills rarely come into play. And often, they are exactly the wrong things to do.

But great leaders know that only dead fish swim with the current. So they work harder to get through trying times, searching for more creative solutions and inspiring their coworkers to stay engaged. They also take some time to pause and think because they know they shouldn't react impusively. Only then do they act.

So how am I trying to live up to this leadership ideal? After pausing to think, I'm taking the following steps:

1) I asked my coworkers to help me look at our expenses and figure out where we can cut. Engaging the staff in this process is crucial. They need to understand that it's a time for sacrifice, and they'll be happy to be part of the process if you let them.

2) I'm looking for new opportunities that arise from the economic problems we're facing—new trends or market needs that will rise up because of the hard times.

3) I'm enhancing customer service to make sure the people who already love what we do don't slip away. It might be hard to find a lot of new business during a recession, so we need to work even harder to convince our current customers to sit tight?

4) I'm doing more marketing, not less. Many companies reflexively shut off their advertising efforts during tough times. I'd rather shut off the water supply than my marketing. With fewer customers in the market, we need to fight even harder for those that remain! Plus, if my competitors stop advertising, I'll get more bang for my buck in the ad market. And if the market is less cluttered, our marketing efforts stand a better chance of getting noticed.

Bottom line: Don't be depressed about the tough times ahead. Get excited and view it as an opportunity to test your skills as a great leader! Chester Arthur would have relished the opportunity.

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Comment by Ray McGowan on October 26, 2008 at 7:50am
Great Advice! You can have the "head in the sand" mentality in this type market or you can look to take advantage. I agree with your position on not cutting back and making sure your current customer base doesn't slip away. Many dealerships make cuts and often suffer the consequences. Working smart and involving your team is "good business" and great leadership quality. I know you'll survive this recession because you outlook is on the positive and not the negative. We should all take your approach and it will strengthen our positions in the marketplace.

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