Approach the year with optimism

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by Al Wahnon

As we now move full steam into 2011, it is time for owners and executives to decide how they want to approach the year. Some will call it a year of promise, some will see it as misfortune, and some as a period of uncertainty. When confronted with the road ahead—be it good times, bad times or those periods when things are so-so, there is a single imperative that should always motivate businesspeople: Be the best.

Being purely pragmatic and incurably optimistic, we find misfortune and uncertainty unacceptable as alternatives to success and confidence. The logic is uncomplicated: To approach 2011 with misgivings, anticipating misfortune—the economy will remain weak, consumer confidence will drop again—is a futile exercise.

Such a state of mind can only visit undue stress upon the misfortune hunter, preoccupy him with thoughts of disaster, cause him to be irritable, and it can erode his professionalism. It also makes him a fatalist—what will be, will be—and he does nothing to change what he knows will happen. Then there are those afflicted with uncertainty. They are just as harmful to themselves and their companies as the Misfortune 500. The uncertain don’t know which way to turn, what to believe. They are afraid to pull in their horns or go out on a limb. They want to be safe, so they do nothing.

The uncertain straddle the fence. In years past, on average, they’re never wrong—nor are they ever right—but in this new economy doing nothing is more acumen to the misfortune for it is a strategy doomed to fail.

Those who jump into the year with enthusiasm and view it as one of promise are far better off than their doubting, uncertain peers. Expecting good things to happen has a positive affect on a business and those who work for its success. The time others devote to worrying, retrenching and stagnating, those in the promise platoon use to hone their professionalism, to aggressively seek to expand business, to promote, market, advertise and be profitable.

They aren’t necessarily pie-in-the-sky guys either; they tend to be realistic and they don’t believe everything they hear on the TV and talk radio circuit about how things are dismal everywhere around the country. They make it their business to know their trading area, their customers and their products. They understand that sometimes what is taking place in their neck of the woods is different than what is happening somewhere else in the country thousands of miles away.

We constantly hear from distributors and retailers who tell us their community, region is faring better than the national scene. Sometimes it is just about a particular product or product category, sometimes it is about overall business conditions. The point being, those who do well, do so because they are not only determined to succeed, they go about doing it by influencing what they can control.

Perhaps that’s what it is all about. Business leaders control the destiny of their business and beliefs of the executives of a company filter down through the organization and engulf all employees. Tell your managers and workers it will be a year of misfortune or that you are uncertain what is store and watch productivity fall, business diminish, profits drop. Tell them you are embarking on a year of promise and see what happens. Don’t gloss it by promising the pot of gold, just point out the company has survived the worst so whatever the year holds, you, them and the business will be better.

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