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Thrive Amid Uncertainty
How to thrive amid uncertainty is a perennial question. Add a financial crisis or a health crisis like Covid to the mix and you’ve really got a hot mess on your hands.
So how do you keep your head up and continuously thrive amid uncertainty? Meridith Elliott Powell, author of Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty into Competitive Advantage, offers insights based on her research of the oldest, continuously running businesses on the planet.
What You’ll Discover About How to Thrive Amid Adversity (highlights & transcript):
* 9-Step strategy necessary to thrive amid uncertainty [03:39]
* How to focus on opportunities and thrive amid uncertainty [09:44]
* Role of relentless vision to thrive amid uncertainty [10:57]
* Researching the businesses who thrive amid uncertainty [15:33]
* What today’s businesses need to focus on the thrive amid uncertainty [19:32]
* The role of luck in business [22:09]
* And much MORE.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] How to thrive amid uncertainty is a perennial question. Add a financial crisis or a health crisis like COVID to the mix, and you’ve really got a hot mess. So, how do you keep your head up and continuously thrive amid adversity, amid uncertainty? My next guest has some tips on exactly how to do that.
Announcer: [00:00:20] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matters to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:31] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner and today’s guest is Meredith Elliot Powell. She’s the author of the book Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage. She’s also an accomplished professional speaker who’s been voted one of the top 15 business growth experts and sales experts on LinkedIn. She’s also regularly featured in publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., Investment News and others.
Hanna: [00:01:01] In a nutshell, Meredith helps leaders and business owners learn the new rules of success and the strategies they need to achieve it. Things they need to do to build their business, engage their teams and leave the competition in the dust. So, I’m anxious and eager to stir up some dust. So, welcome to Business Confidential Now Meridith.
Meridith Elliott Powell: [00:01:21] Thank you. I’m excited to be here and really looking forward to kicking up a little dust.
INSPIRATION FOR THRIVE: STRATEGIES TO TURN UNCERTAINTY TO COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Hanna: [00:01:25] Me too. Me too. Now I’m really intrigued by your book, Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage. What inspired you to write that? And, what did you learn about how to thrive amid adversity in the process?
Meridith: [00:01:42] You know, it’s such an interesting story. I actually became obsessed with the word uncertainty a couple of years ago, back in 2018 and 2019 when the economy was good and we had never heard of the COVID-19 – COVID ’20 crisis. But I was, much like probably a lot of your listeners. I would go into businesses and my clients, and I would always ask the question, how’s business? Everybody would respond the same. Business is good. Business is great. We have – we’re headed for our best year on record.
Meridith: [00:02:15] But oh, this uncertainty. As if uncertainty was this black cloud hanging over even a good economy, even positive times. And I just started to think, what if you flipped the script on that? What if you started to think about uncertainty as a positive? What if you actually believed in your business? That uncertainty created opportunity. If it was a level of disruption that could actually take your organization, you know, to another level?
Meridith: [00:02:45] And, that thinking right there put me on a mission. A mission to try to find companies and businesses that had actually done that. And, I was able to uncover nine companies that had been in business since the late 1700s, early 1900s. And, they are still in business thriving today. So, think about that. They’ve come through world wars; they’ve come through economic depression. They’ve not survived one pandemic, they’ve survived two.
Meridith: [00:03:10] And I wanted to know why, what were they doing that was so different? And from the research, I was able to uncover nine strategies that if you put them into place in your business, all of these companies did them that it’ll position you no matter the level of adversity. Whether it’s a, you know, whether it’s a pandemic or whether it’s a new competitor or new technology. You’ve got to deal with your position to not just survive it but actually thrive it.
9 STEP STRATEGY NECESSARY TO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Hanna: [00:03:39] Well, we all want to thrive. There’s no question about it. So, can you clue us in on what these nine steps are?
Meridith: [00:03:45] Yes. So, it’s important to know that you need to do all nine and that the nine need to be done in order. There’s a compounding effect. In fact, when I was publishing the book, my editor called me and she said, “I’d really like to move this one strategy in front of the other. Is that okay?” And I said, no. I don’t even care if it flows better from an editorial standpoint. It’s not the way it works.
Meridith: [00:04:08] So, we start with a relentless vision. It’s not enough to just have a vision. You have to be relentless about it, meaning you have to focus and speak and think about it consistently. Because in times of uncertainty, your mind will find what you’re focused on. Meaning if you spend too much time focus on the obstacles, you’ll be stuck. If you focus on the opportunity, you’ll find opportunities. So, vision is the foundation.
Meridith: [00:04:35] Once you have the vision, you move on to strategy number two, which is condition yourself for change. I also like to call this strategy embrace the suck, because the truth is that we have to deal with change. I mean, it’s just shifting so fast and so rapidly. But here’s the trick with it, is even the change gurus and experts are telling you how to manage change, how to deal with change once your change shows up? But in uncertain times,
Meridith: [00:05:06] if you wait for change to show up, you’re behind the eight ball. You’ve already lost the opportunity. Change can be your greatest opportunity if you see it coming. If you ignore it, it’s going to bury you. So, we use in the book a tool called a skeptic that really helps you start to predict the future.
Meridith: [00:05:25] Once you condition yourself for change, it is time for strategy number three which is to turn competition into collaboration. We’ve got a great story in the book about John Hannon, who founded Baker’s Chocolate. A young Irishman who came to this country with no money at all, not a nickel in his pocket, not a penny. And through collaboration, through finding partners and working together, he was able to found and create what is now the oldest and largest chocolate company in the country.
Meridith: [00:06:01] So, you can’t compete in times of uncertainty. You have to start to think about who you can work with because time and speed are of the essence.
Meridith: [00:06:11] Strategy number four is how you make decisions. This strategy blew me away when I wrote the book. Because one of the biggest challenges and uncertainty is how do you make decisions when you don’t know what’s going to happen or what’s going to be next. And the way that you make decisions, every company did it the same, you do it according to your core values.
Meridith: [00:06:32] We call this strategy know your core. You use them like a litmus test. If what is in front of you aligns with your core values, it’s the right decision for you. If it doesn’t, let it go. And somehow core values carry you through uncertainty, the biggest storms you’ll ever face. They carry you through like this beautiful North Star or a compass that gets you where you need to go.
Meridith: [00:06:58] Strategy number five is my favorite and I could talk about it for hours but it’s how do you grow in the middle of uncertainty. And, what people don’t understand is uncertain times, the most troubling times, is some of the best time for growth. But you have to understand how growth works. We call this strategy, secure your base. In other words, business grows from the inside out.
Meridith: [00:07:24] You have to start by understanding your existing customers if you ever hope to attract new customers. Because the problems that you solved before the crisis are not the same as you’re solving during are not the same as you’re solving as you come out of the crisis. And, the only way to grow in the middle of uncertainty is to be relevant, really relevant. And your customers can tell you how to be relevant.
Meridith: [00:07:48] Speaking of connecting with customers, it’s just makes me think of connecting in general, which leads to strategy number six which is build your network. It will change your life. There is no problem you’re facing. No issue you’re confronted with. That somebody in your network has an already solved or hasn’t – doesn’t know somebody who couldn’t help you achieve that problem.
Meridith: [00:08:10] We have countless examples in the book which are amazing but a network has to be nurtured. And you’ve got to invest in that network long before you ask the network to invest in you. Strategy
Meridith: [00:08:23] number seven is to strengthen your team. There’s so little you can control in uncertain times. Very, very little. But one thing you can control is the quality of the people you surround yourself with and the level to which you engage them. And we really talk on this strategy. When you can’t guarantee people a job, you can’t guarantee them a raise. You can’t guarantee them the future. What are the secrets to really engaging them and getting them to be as passionate as you are about the growth of your organization?
Meridith: [00:08:55] Strategy eight is to objectively look at your business through no fault of your own, no fault. The strategies that you’re using right now will not work six months from now. Again, not your fault but it’s because your customers, the marketplace, regulations, policies. So much is shifting. So, you have to be able to objectively look at your business and ask yourself what’s working, what isn’t and what do we need to be doing that we’re not doing? They could take us to another level.
Meridith: [00:09:25] We call this strategy shed fast and keep moving. Just because it worked a year ago. Don’t go down that rabbit hole of believing it will work now. It will sink your business.
Meridith: [00:09:37] And last but not least is to rinse and repeat. This is a strategy that needs to be worked over and over again.
HOW TO FOCUS ON OPPORTUNITIES AND THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Hanna: [00:09:44] Wait now Meredith. I have a feeling that we could do a show on each one of those steps. [Laughter] There is definitely a lot there. But I’d like to kind of go back to the very first step that you talked about the vision and the mindset and not getting stuck on the problems but focusing on opportunities. I think that’s great. My question is, how do you get people to shift their mindset?
Hanna: [00:10:10] Because on a day-to-day basis, an entrepreneur, any business owner, but especially somebody that’s more in a startup mode, they’re doing nothing but putting out fires and fixing problems, and so it’s really really hard to sit back and think about your business and work on your business when you’re constantly working in your business to fix stuff.
Hanna: [00:10:36] So, what advice would you have for somebody in that situation to shift their mindset? I mean, it’s one thing to say, “Well, just shift your mindset.” It’s just like, “Well, go on a diet.” [Laughter] It’s like, great, okay. But easier said than done. What practical advice do you have for somebody to really make that shift?
ROLE OF RELENTLESS VISION TO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Meridith: [00:10:57] So, the reason we call it a relentless vision and not just a vision is because – and this is where I made the shift. It’s for years I’ve had a vision as part of my business strategy. But that’s not what I’m talking about at all. If you came home with me, you got up with me in the morning. You would see that the very first thing that I do is I grab a cup of coffee and I go upstairs to my office, and I sit down and I open my desk drawer, and there’s three note cards sitting in my desk drawer.
Meridith: [00:11:27] And, on those note cards are my vision. It’s my vision for where I see my business, where I see my health, where I see my finances, where I see my relationships a year from now. I start every day reading those note cards when I take a break at lunch, which, hey, I’m an entrepreneur too, so I get it. My lunch break is 2.30 thirty seconds long, right? [Laughter] I read those note cards again. And before I shut my office down at night, they’re the very last thing I read before I go home.
Meridith: [00:12:02] Reading my note cards takes me 30 seconds, no longer than that, and it’s not eloquent. It’s not beautiful. It’s just what I see, and I share those note cards with my team because I want my team focused there as well but I am relentlessly focused on it.
Meridith: [00:12:19] I got it. There’s a great story in the book about a group of kids going whitewater rafting and I’ll just cut to the chase really quickly. The rapids were really too high for them to go down but the kids really wanted to go. So, the guide said you can go as long as I put you through a three-hour safety talk. And for three hours, she talked about all the obstacles they would hit but she spent three times as much time focus on what she called the positive point, the calm water where the raft needed to go.
Meridith: [00:12:46] And, she explained it like this. She said, “I have to make you aware of the obstacles on the river, you need to know the dangers, but I’m going to immediately refocus your attention to the calm water because if I leave you focused on the rock, you’ll hit it. But if I make you aware of the rock, you’ll make a smart decision. And if I point you to the calm water, you’ll be pulled there like a magnet.”
Meridith: [00:13:09] And as an entrepreneur, we have to be pulled there like a magnet. And the best way that I have found to do it is to have my little note cards. I read them three times a day, I do it every single day, and I invest a minute and a half in being relentlessly focused on my vision. But then my mind is set to find the things I’m looking for.
Hanna: [00:13:35] That’s interesting and I just have to ask. In the course of doing that, have you ever found that it’s changed your decision during the course of the day in between the times that you’ve looked at your note cards?
Meridith: [00:13:51] Absolutely. I mean, there’s a couple of things like, I mean – I said on my note cards that you’ll find that I have my finances on there. I have my health on there. I have my relationships on there and I have my business on there. Even courses like today were a great example. I mean, today I was just – I had that entrepreneurial day where I got up at 5:30 and I think I had to get on a call at 3:00, and I went, “Oh my God, I haven’t even gotten a shower.” I had one of those days.
Meridith: [00:14:19] I had a lot of work that needed to be done and I looked at those note cards again at lunch and I thought, my health is really important to me, and I’m going to get my dog and I am going to take 45 minutes in a day where I have no time at all, and I’m going to take my dog on a walk. My body, mind and spirit need that. So, that’s a great example of it.
Meridith: [00:14:37] It also – I have really big financial goals for my business. So, it’s completely changed how I categorize and prioritize my calendar because my mindset is thinking I need to accomplish those things. So, production and business revenue growth better be on here. I need to make time every day to make sales calls. I feel like it resets me consistently.
Meridith: [00:15:04] The other thing is when I read it at lunch time, I’ve had one of those days. And as an entrepreneur, I have bad days. But it excites me because now I see I’ve been doing it for over 16 months now. I’m seeing things on my notecards that I never believed would come to fruition, come to fruition.
Hanna: [00:15:23] Love a success story. That’s all really inspiring. [Laughter] We all need inspiration. We all need inspiration.
Meridith: [00:15:32] That’s right.
RESEARCHING BUSINESSES WHO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Hanna: [00:15:33] Especially when we’re trying to thrive amid uncertainty. I mean, that’s what it’s all about. In doing the research for your book, how did you identify the companies that helped shape this nine-step realization?
Meridith: [00:15:49] Well, there were a couple of things. As number one is I literally started just by Googling. I thought companies that have been around since the 1700s that are still here today. I mean, I kind of started that way. And lucky for me, there really aren’t that many. Then a lot of them were companies that were started but got bought up by really big companies like –
Meridith: [00:16:16] Technically, JPMorgan has been around for over 250 years but they’ve been every bank under the sun. They’ve been every merger. They’ve been everything. And I really, as I read through it, I found these companies that were closely held or family held and that really, really appealed to me. Because I thought I want to tell a story of a company that that, first of all, adhered to their customers versus their stockholders and a company that made it through by really being focused on not getting big but on still doing and selling what they loved.
Meridith: [00:16:57] So, the bulk of the companies are closely held or small. And then I wanted to throw in a couple of larger companies like Procter and Gamble is one of the companies, but they had to adhere to a certain set of values. There are a lot of companies that have been around for a long time but they kind of have speculative backgrounds or they’re so far away from what they originally started to do that it really just easily weeded down to these nine.
Meridith: [00:17:28] And then here’s kind of the cool thing about those nine and it shouldn’t have surprised me but it did is then their CEOs and their executive leadership teams were so approachable. They were so – I don’t know if they still had this. You think you’ve been around for 250 years you’d be quite full of yourself. But they still had this kind of startup entrepreneurial attitude about them.
RESEARCH IN SUPPORT OF HOW TO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Meridith: [00:17:51] One of the larger companies I interviewed was Jim Beam and they’re the ones I highlight on Condition Yourself for Change because the how they predicted the future and how they came through prohibition is just brilliant while all of their competitors were declaring bankruptcy. There’s really something to be learned from that. I was on LinkedIn Googling for a contact for LinkedIn on a Saturday night at like 8:00, and I found the CEO and which is bizarre to me and I sent him a message on LinkedIn. At about 8:25, he emailed me right back and was like, “Yeah, I’d love to talk to you.”
Hanna: [00:18:29] That’s an incredible story. That really is. [Laughter] Not the kind of thing you would expect at all.
Meridith: [00:18:35] Not at all. And so – but it shouldn’t have surprised me because, again, my favorite part of this book is while I give you strategies and all those types of things, the stories of these companies are first inspiring but they’re motivating. Because you look at a stationery company, Crane and Company where we all write our beautiful thank you notes. What they had to do to get through the to the Civil War when their supply chains and things were cut off.
Meridith: [00:19:10] It’s just incredible. And you look at that and you think, okay, if they could do that, I got enough grit in me. I can definitely do this. And again, it’s just it’s the most – it shouldn’t have surprised me because the qualities that started these companies are very much still alive in these companies today.
WHAT TODAY’S BUSINESSES NEED TO FOCUS ON TO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Hanna: [00:19:32] That’s good to know. When you’re talking to business leaders and business owners that deal with these kinds of challenges. What should they focus on?
Meridith: [00:19:41] Yeah, they should focus on the – first of all, I mean, it really does right where you started it. It really does start with mindset. I think the easiest and simultaneously the hardest step is that first step. I can help you with every other step. I can give you the tools for how to condition yourself for change, how to choose who you’re going to collaborate with, how to really get the right value so you make decisions. I can help you make money in the middle of your worst horrific nightmare.
Meridith: [00:20:12] What I can’t do for you is set your mindset and you have to – an exercise I run my clients through is I think it’s very important because we all have anxiety around uncertainty. I mean, we’ve all had sleepless nights coming through Covid. We’ll all have sleepless nights worrying about inflation. We’ll all have sleepless nights worrying about supply chains,
Meridith: [00:20:35] I mean, welcome to the life of an entrepreneur. But an exercise that I run my clients through and I do for myself quite a bit is to take everything that you’re worried about, everything that you’re worried about and brain dump it. Get it all out on a sheet of paper. Give it voice and articulate it. Then walk away, come back an hour later, and divide that list into what you can control and what you can’t control.
Meridith: [00:21:01] The difference between people who succeed and people who don’t is they focus on what they can control and they forget about the rest. The biggest lesson I learned from this book is that success is not logical. It doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t the people with the most money. It wasn’t the people with the best connections. It wasn’t the people with more resources or a brilliant idea. It was the people who focused on what they can control.
Meridith: [00:21:25] Then we go back to John Hannon, who’s an Irish immigrant, who shows up in the United States and he has no money. Convinces people he doesn’t know and he’s an Irishman at this time which is a lineage we were quite prejudiced against at the time. He convinces people to go into business with him and to give him a shot to let him use part of their mill to fund it with water.
Meridith: [00:21:50] To get a general store owner to invest in and give them a little bit of part of his store so he can work on his chocolate. That it is, by all logical means, that man never should have been successful but he was because he focused on what he could control and just didn’t worry about the rest.
THE ROLE OF LUCK IN BUSINESS
Hanna: [00:22:09] Some people would say, “Well, there was an element of luck involved with this. Don’t underestimate luck.” What do you think about that?
Meridith: [00:22:16] I don’t believe in luck. I don’t believe in it at all. Not one single ounce. I think that luck – if you have to call it luck, I think it happens because you put yourself out there and you do the right things. It’s like when I talk about building your network, changing your life.
Meridith: [00:22:33] Tom Fazio, one of the greatest golf course designers of our lifetime, wrote the foreword for my book and I got the chance to interview him. And what a lot of people don’t know about Tom is that he grew up in a working-class family in eastern Philadelphia. No money, no connections, and he didn’t go to college. He would scrape enough money together every year to get himself to the Masters, one of the most important golf tournaments in the country. Because he believed if he could just get to the Masters, he could meet enough people.
Meridith: [00:23:00] And today he can trace every golf course he’s designed back to somebody he met at the Masters. So, if you talk to Tom, Tom will say, “I was lucky.” And I’ve always said to Tom, “You are not. You created that. There were so many other people dreaming of becoming whatever they wanted to become but they didn’t have the courage to scrape up the money to walk into a place full of legends where they were a nobody and have the courage to start going up to people and introducing themselves.”
Meridith: [00:23:28] You create your luck if you have to call it that. So, I don’t believe in that. I believe it’s following these strategies, putting yourself out there, and having enough courage to fail and get up again, and enough courage to do what makes us uncomfortable at times.
BEST ADVICE FOR HOW TO THRIVE AMID UNCERTAINTY
Hanna: [00:23:45] So, would that be your best piece of advice for business owners and entrepreneurs?
Meridith: [00:23:49] Yeah. I mean, my best piece of advice in all honesty is focus all of your time and your energy on what you can control. Please remember I told you that success is not logical. I don’t know why it works, but you have a finite amount of energy, time and resources. Don’t give a shred of them to something you can’t control. Pour it into what you can, and somehow you’re going to come out the other side successful. I see it over and over again.
Hanna: [00:24:18] Thank you so much, Meredith. This has really been an eye opener, and I can’t wait to look forward to reading your book. These stories about these businesses that have been around for as long as they have is intriguing for me. Because at one point in my career, I did work for a company that was started before the United States was the United States here in New York when it was called New Amsterdam. It merged with another company actually only a few years ago, which is kind of sad. It was sad for everybody involved.
Hanna: [00:24:53] But anyhow, if you’d like to contact Meredith and learn more about her research and how to thrive amid adversity or her book Thrive, you could find those links in the show notes at BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. And if you know someone who could benefit from Meredith’s advice. And come on, everybody is involved as far in business is going to be facing some uncertainty. And yeah, it keeps us up at night.
Hanna: [00:25:17] So, who wouldn’t want to follow Meredith’s advice or could benefit from it? Tell them about today’s episode. Share the link to the show. Leave a positive review so others can see it on your podcast app or a lovethepodcast.com/BusinessConfidential.
Hanna: [00:25:34] You’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner and I hope you have a great day and an even better tomorrow.
Behind the Scenes of Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage
What Today’s Businesses Need to Focus on to Thrive Amid Adversity
Is Luck Necessary for Business to Thrive Amid Adversity?
Guest: Meridith Elliott Powell
Voted one of the Top 15 Business Growth Experts, Top Sales Experts by LinkedIn, and Top 41 Motivational Sales Speakers. Meridith has a cutting-edge message, rooted in real-life examples and real-world knowledge. She is the author of six books, including “Cut Through The Excuses – Send Sales Through The Roof” , and her latest “Thrive: Strategies To Turn Uncertainty To Competitive Advantage.”
Meridith is regularly featured in publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and Investment News, among others. High energy and highly interactive, Meridith’s helps leaders and business owners learn the new rules of success today, and the strategies they need to build their business, engage their team, and leave their competition in the dust.
Meridith is a Certified Speaker Professional, a designation held by less than twelve percent of professional speakers, as well as a Certified Virtual Presenter, having passed the rigorous certification standards to achieve this designation.
In her highly engaging keynote-speaking sessions, Meridith shows her audiences how to attract more business, retain top talent, and leap into position to win in this new economy. No walking on coals, no breaking boards, just real-life strategies you can put into place first thing Monday morning.
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