Management Matters: Weathering the Storm

Are you crisis-minded or opportunity-minded?

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Thomas Paine wrote these words in the winter of 1776, as George Washington's army, battered by defeats in New York and New Jersey, teetered between dedication and desertion.

Washington's soldiers were of two minds. Some crisis-minded soldiers had expected to prevail. When defeated, they reacted with fear, denial, or complacency.Other, opportunity-minded soldiers had expected they would encounter nearly unbearable conditions. But instead of shutting down, they harnessed the discomfort to trigger their ingenuity and internal resources. In modern terms, we would say they put their coping mechanisms to work.

A century later, Charles Darwin would confirm that this is the best strategy: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."Today, with the economic boom gone, what's your attitude? Are you thinking "doom and gloom"? Or are you thinking "hidden opportunity"?

When resilient people meet a change that showers adversity and loss of control, they experience the same apprehension as crisis-minded people. It's their reactions that differ. Resilient businesses orient quickly to changing circumstances. They apply their resources and they persist until they lift themselves up to a profitable position.

The ancient Greeks believed that we can improve our future by developing our abilities and acting in ways that yield positive benefits long-term. They knew that no one's plans ever fully materialize so they urged citizens to prepare for all eventualities and make choices today that would give them resources for tomorrow's unknowns. You should seek this combination to survive this time in our own industry.

In the silver-lining department, what good do you think you can draw from these times? Might you improve your market share where competitors have closed or will close? Might you find other selling opportunities or markets you had not entered because you were too busy? Might you find waste in your business that has been costing you money -- costs that you had been too busy to uncover in good times? What can you learn from the failures in your business and in competitors' companies about running a business better?

Crisis-minded people think successful people are lucky. But the lucky ones create their luck. They believe the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, but is greener where you water it.

The opportunity-minded are not Pollyannas. They are aware of problems and that's where they look for solutions. They know about difficulties, but believe they can be overcome. They see negatives, but accentuate positives. Like you and me, they have reason to complain, but choose to smile.

Sam Allman is CEO of Allman Consulting and Training Inc. He is also a motivational speaker, consultant and author, whose books include Heart and Mind Selling. For more information, visit

Originally published July 1, 2009