In a recent interview in Fortune magazine, management guru Jim Collins, author of business classics Built to Last and Good to Great, discussed what a business needs to thrive through uncertainty.

Collins has spent several years studying how successful companies navigate turbulent times. He’s examined history including recent events such as 9/11 and the dot-com crash. His view is that the rollercoaster is here to stay.

“…it turns out that 1952 to 2000 was an aberration,” says Collins. “What we’re experiencing now, get used to it! It’s life, and it’s the normal life!”

His underlying message is a positive one: he believes that when responded to well “turbulence is your friend” and crisis presents a fantastic business opportunity.

His comments focus on big business, but many of the principles are the same for us. The full article is worth a read, but here are some of the quotes that stuck with me.

Maintain informed optimism:
“You have to have the combination of believing that you will prevail, but not also be the Pollyanna who ignores the brutal facts.”

Manage expectations:
“The right people do what they say they will do, which means being really careful about what they say they will do. It’s key in difficult times.”

Be accountable:
“People who take credit in good times and blame external forces in bad times do not deserve to lead. End of story.”

Don’t panic or become paralysed:
“As a rock climber, the one thing you learn is that those who panic, die on the mountain. You either go up or go down. You don’t just sit there and get clobbered.”

Think long-term:
“…we find that great companies manage for the quarter-century.”

“I don’t care how hard this period is. You have to say that we will be in this for a long time and we will turn this into a defining event, a big catalyst to make ourselves a much stronger enterprise.”

Thanks Jim, nicely said.

What about you? Are you seeing clouds or silver lining right now?

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