By Gerard Burke, founder and MD, Your Business Your Future

In 2009, at the height (or should that be depth?) of the most challenging recession in most of our lifetimes, I observed that in any economic downturn, in every sector of the economy, there will be winners as well as losers. And, based on my work with thousands of ambitious owner managers, many of whom have survived more than one recession, I identified six habits of those who emerge as winners.

With all the economic indicators continuing to be sluggish at best, and with continuing uncertain (some might say, chaos) in the Eurozone, these observations remain true and, arguably, even more apt. So, in the next few newsletters, I’m going to recap and update the Six Habits.

The Six Habits are:

- Be in Control

- Be Confident

- Be Distinctive

- Be Strong

- Be Wise

- Be Ready

Let’s look at the first two Habits.

Habit #1: Be In Control

The current economic climate remains challenging for many smaller businesses, and the uncertainty in Europe doesn’t help. At such times, some owner managers feel at the mercy of forces beyond their control and simply wait for the hand that fate deals them. Others bury their heads in the sand and carry on as usual, hoping that what they’ve done in the past will be good enough now. Neither of these approaches - passive acceptance nor ignorance - is the mindset of a winner.

Winners take control of their destiny. They recognise that despite everything that is going on around them, they have unconditional power and control over their own actions and what they do in their businesses.

There is little any of us can do about the economic climate or the result of the general elections and votes of confidence in Greece and Italy. Nevertheless, there are some things you, as a business owner, can control. You can still have a compelling vision for your business and communicate it in an inspiring way. You can still be proud and confident about what makes your business great. You can still be strong and rigorous in managing your business. You can still make plans and invest wisely. And, you can continue to grasp opportunities that others are too timid to spot.

Habit #2: Be Confident

In his victory speech, Barack Obama inspired the American people, and millions more around the world, with his clear and transformational vision for a different and better future, even at a time of great challenge for his country and the world. Not all owner managers will have the oratory skills of the current US president. At the same time, we can all adopt his “can do” attitude and we can all articulate a longer term vision.

In the uncertain times, it’s tempting to focus exclusively on the short-term — living from week to week and channelling all your energy into immediate challenges. The problem is that a short term agenda can be dispiriting for you and other people in your business. So, as the owner manager, you need to have the confidence to look beyond the short term and have a clear and compelling vision of where the business is going in the medium to longer term.

Having created a compelling vision, you then need to articulate it, and preferably in a way which inspires other people to help you bring it about. That doesn’t necessarily mean delivering a rousing rhetorical speech every morning. It’s also about letting people see your passion for your business, communicating your plans with authenticity, and helping your people see how they can contribute.

And remember: every owner manager is in show business.

You’re on show all of the time, you are always communicating - even when you’re not saying anything! Whether you like it or not, you are the person from whom everyone else in your business takes their lead and your every action, word and mood will be taken as a signal of how you’re feeling and, therefore, how the business is doing.

These are uncertain times - and they will pass. In the meantime, stay confident about what makes your business great. Stay confident about your passion for your business. Stay confident about the future you will create for your business and for you. Communicate that vision authentically and in a way which inspires other people to help you bring it about. This confidence will spread to your staff, to your customers and to your suppliers. And the effect will be dramatic.

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