Lotta Alsen: How to Rekindle Your Business Dream in Tough Times

August 1, 2010
Lotta Alsen

Lotta Alsen is President of SACC-Greater Los Angeles and a serial entrepreneur. She is CEO of the consulting firm Quickenings.

Today many business-owners and leaders are struggling. The economy is still in the dumps and while there are some positive signs that the tide is turning, the recovery process moves in fits and starts. So what do you do? Do you give up? Curse the elements and move back to Sweden? Or do you find a way to move forward, and upwards, becoming one of those business owners and leaders who take charge of the situation and become the master of your own destiny?

Here are seven steps to take yourself and your business to the next level:

1. Set a Vision

“Do you want to sell sugared water or do you want to change the world” is the question Steve Jobs asked John Scully when Scully was still the President of Pepsi and Steve Jobs wanted to recruit him. Scully decided that he preferred to change the world, and today Apple has a market cap of $220 billion.

Any entrepreneur, or artist, for that matter, knows that a company doesn’t just magically appear. It starts as an idea that then slowly is turned into reality. So first of all we need an idea, a vision of what we want to create, in order to make things happen. If we want to make it happen big, we need to dream big. Yet most businesses don’t have compelling enough vision; a vision that make you jump out of bed and a vision that turns every employee into a missionary. Aim high, dream big and set a compelling vision!

2. Build Courage

“Courage is to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”, said Winston Churchill. Most Swedes try to avoid failure, because it’s still culturally stigmatized, yet there’s no successful business active today that hasn’t faced adversity. Everyone struggles. The only thing that is relevant is how you respond to the obstacles in your way, and how fast you stand up again, after having fallen down.

Courage is even more necessary in tough times, because when we are surrounded by fear, we have a tendency to think smaller and protect our positions. Yet, there’s only so much cost-cutting we can do. After some house-cleaning, we need to innovate and create a momentum that can take our business, and ourselves, to the next level.

3. Take Baby-Steps

“Just do it”, says Nike. Yet, it’s so much easier to talk, to strategize and to plan rather than to start moving towards what we want to create. This is especially true when we are struggling; when what we want to achieve seems as insurmountable as Mount Everest in a snowstorm. But just as any rock climber knows, the only way to move forward is to take one step at a time, neither looking up or down. It doesn’t have to be a big step forward. It can be as simple as picking up the phone and placing one single call. The best way to take your business out of the slump is to do something, it almost doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you take one baby-step at a time.

4. Cultivating Trust & Having Faith.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
(Martin Luther King, Jr). When you are an entrepreneur or a business owner, you are by definition somewhat delusional. You are trying to create something that doesn’t exist yet, or expand a business, even when everyone around you is struggling. Essentially, you have to take a leap of faith, believing that you have what it takes to make it happen.

Yet having faith and cultivating trust, especially for Swedes, is sometimes like developing an atrophied muscle. It needs work and it takes time to change our mindset that view the world as a glass that is half-empty to a see that it’s actually more than half-full. Affirmations are a great way to get started.

5. Staying Power

 “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nice percent perspiration.” (Thomas Edison). 9 out of 10 companies that a Venture Capital firm invests in will fail. 80 percent of all new businesses in the U.S. will fail within five years. In order to take our businesses to the next level, we need to be very committed and know that our journey will last a lot longer than we ever could have imagined. Yet that is no reason to give up. “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” (Dale Carnegie). Many highly successful companies were started in a recession, e.g. Microsoft, HP, GE, CNN and FedEx. Some even say that a recession is the best time to start or expand a business, because there’s excess capacity and great people to be found. Whatever you do. Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams! Life is too short for that.

6. Letting Go

At the same time, we also have to learn how to surrender and let go. We reach a certain point where we have to trust that we’ve done everything in our power to move things forward. If we are constantly beating our heads against the wall, being frustrated at the slow growth of our business, we are making things worse. No one wants to deal with a desperate leader. Letting go is about the ability to sleep well at night, despite financial struggles, and accept that we can’t control everything in our environment. “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
(Lao Tzu)

7. Having Fun.

The final step of taking your business to the next level, and the most important step of all, is to connect with your passion and have a good time while you are at it. This is sometimes a mighty challenge for Swedes who more often than not have a Bergmanesque relationship to life where the pursuit of darkness is often perceived as more worthy than the pursuit of light. Yet Richard Branson built his entire Virgin empire on the single concept of having fun. So maybe we all need to remind ourselves of is to not take ourselves and our business so seriously, even seeing it as a game, just like Michael Jordan suggests: “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

The author is founder and CEO of Quickenings, a coaching and leadership company. She holds a MSc in International Economics, has started and led several companies, and is a passionate advocate for entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation. She is an executive coach, published author, columnist at Huffington Post, yoga teacher and singer. She also founded the CORE coaching method. You can reach her at lotta@quickenings.com or by calling her at +1 310 399 8650.

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