Here's what I know: bad times can be the making of your company (and of you)

  • Business Advice
Peter Done

Peter Done, Group Managing Director and Founder

(Last updated )

I’ve just been reading a great book by Ryan Holiday called, “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs.” I’d recommend it highly. A common characteristic of great CEOs and business leaders is that they read widely. And not just business-related writing, but all sorts of books from a range of genres on a variety of topics. So it’s worth learning from the best practitioners of management and business. Take a leaf, literally, from their book. Keep your mind open, never stop learning, read widely, and read often.

What can Holiday teach you?

One of the quotes that stood out to me from Holiday’s book is this: “Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them. Great individuals, like great companies, find a way to transform a weakness into a strength.” In saying this, Holiday is essentially rephrasing Nietzsche’s famous quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” He’s inviting us to think again about how we perceive and how we deal with difficult situations. It’s not just an entrepreneurial philosophy but could apply to any walk of life. The way we perceive problems and difficulties is absolutely key to the way we then approach and handle them. Failures and obstacles are a natural part of life and of the road to success. They educate and strengthen us to handle the next situation we face better.

How to thrive in adversity

Some of the tactics that Holiday recommends when evaluating a situation are applicable when facing difficult times in business, such as: - Remaining objective - Controlling emotions - Seeing the good in situations - Focussing only on the things that are in your control - Trying to keep things in perspective According to Holiday, this enables you to always to focus on what the opportunity is in any given situation, however difficult it may seem at that particular moment. It obviously requires a tremendous level of self-discipline and practice, but it will always help you to see the wood for the trees in times of crisis. As Holiday says, it may be simple but it isn’t easy.

Thomas Edison: more than just a great inventor

A quick example. Edison’s library burned down when he was 67, the fire taking with it a lifetime of experiments, prototypes, and notes. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Edison said to his son, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.” He was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “Although I’m over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He saw it as a fresh start and went on to make more than $10 million in revenue the following year.

My approach in a crisis

Obstacles rear up. Accidents happen. Crises develop. That’s all part of business. I’ve faced quite a few in my time, which I talk about in more detail in a recent interview with the Manchester Evening News. It's how you deal with difficulty that matters. That's what will differentiate a bad business, from a good business, from a great business. Having good advisers around you is essential in a crisis and that is something you are able to control. Whilst we can’t help you with every situation, if you’re facing problems relating to employment law or health & safety, then always be sure to call our team at Peninsula on 0800 051 3687.

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