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WNC Business

Timeless formula for success

Jan 02, 2024 07:30AM ● By Randee Brown

Author Meridith Elliot Powell designed a formula that helps businesses leverage change to create opportunities in any economic phase that transcend industries and company size.

During 2018 and 2019, Powell said, many businesses were having their best year ever due to a red-hot market. Some business owners were waiting for uncertainty, assuming when an economic change happened, it would be a negative shift. Wondering why uncertainty always has to be negative, Powell embarked on researching companies that have been in business for the last 250 years and how they were able to take advantage of periodic economic downturns. 

“My research uncovered nine companies that have survived through depressions, world wars, and a pandemic,” Powell said. “From that, I extracted a nine-step formula that I guarantee if you put into place, you’ll not only shift how you think, feel, and act around uncertainty, you’ll actually start to make it work for your organization.”

Powell spent two and a half years doing research and interviews with various companies. Not looking for a specific process, her nine-step formula revealed itself organically. She found success often was not logical as companies predicted to achieve success didn’t always do so, and vice versa. It was often about mindset and the way a business was run more than tactical strategies.

“It wasn’t about resources or geographic location or even product,” Powell said. “As I interviewed these businesses, these philosophies and ways of running a business became clear. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is, this formula that worked in 1795 is the same formula that worked in 2023.”

The formula Powell uncovered is as follows:

  1. Maintain a relentless vision. Deeper than just a vision, the first step consists of a focus so sharp that no matter what obstacles are in front of you, your mind will find a way to get there.

  2. Condition yourself for change. Utilizing a military phrase ‘embrace the suck,’ this is not about being a pessimist or an optimist, but being a realist in order to make the changes work.

  3. Competition becomes collaboration. In the face of uncertainty, the challenges you face are too big for one person or one industry to solve. You have to start working with people, and instead of asking yourself, ‘what do we do to navigate uncertainty,’ you should be asking yourself, ‘who do we need to work with?’

  4. Make decisions according to core values. Every decision you make – from hiring, to the customers you work with, to the technology you use – all have to align with your core values. There is something powerful about those core values that will carry you through any challenge.

  5. Understand that it is a myth that people don’t spend money in uncertain times. You have to understand that in an uncertain marketplace, customers will only spend money with the person who is able to solve their most pressing needs. What you sold before uncertainty and what you sell during uncertainty changes.

  6. Build your network. If you build your network, you can change your life. The better connected you are, the more successful you will be.

  7. Strengthen your team. Be highly selective about the people you choose for your team, and then invest in that team.

  8. Stay productive, not busy. Continue to look backwards to see what is working and what did not work, and get rid of the things that do not work.

  9. Rinse and repeat. These strategies should become your way of life and the way you run your business.

In the fall of 2023, the biggest thing business leaders were concerned about was the economy. Powell said many of us have gone through so much with COVID, but now the uncertainty looks even more challenging. 

“People are tired,” Powell said. “It’s hard to figure out how to grow with no idea of what’s coming. They have to figure out how to create a future-focused workforce and how to get their team comfortable. Leaders can share this formula with their team, and If they can start to control the changes coming into the marketplace rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by them, it’s possible to start to shift how people think about uncertainty.”

Powell suggests business leaders need to reevaluate more often than in years past. With how often technology updates and how quickly the world moves, a keen understanding of marketplace shifts and the resulting impacts on customers can help businesses adjust strategies to remain successful.

Many of Powell’s clients were feeling a pressure on their margins by the fall of 2023. They were tightening budgets and changing sales processes, and for situations like these, she suggests going back to their strategy and making necessary adjustments. It’s about having the methodology to be in a position to be successful.

“In the face of uncertainty, there can always be opportunities no matter what the obstacles are,” Powell said. “Research and history prove there is always a chance.”