Running a Shop Leadership Sales+Marketing

Handle Your Emotions During the Unexpected

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A lot of guys assume that women are the more emotional members of our species. But there are times when guys can get at least equally emotional, and one of those times is when business slows down to the point that red ink is flowing. When the parking area is nearly empty and prized technicians are being laid off until things pick up, emotions can run pretty high.

So what do you do with all of the negative emotions that have been stirred up? Will those emotions spill over into your dealing with your employees and customers?

When the captain is fearful, frustrated or angry, emotions can infect the entire work force.

Nancy O’Connor, author of the book, “Letting Go With Love”—about the pain of bereavement—suggests that there is a stage of shock, numbness and disbelief before people realize the pain of loss. Similarly, when business starts getting bad, an owner might say to himself, “This is only temporary. Things will soon get better.” But if they don’t, the owner might then begin to cycle through O’Connor’s list of reactions:

  • shock of loss;
  • disbelief and denial;
  • anger and rage;
  • rationalizing and hiding fear;
  • withdrawal, with sadness and disappointment; and
  • depression, self-blame and shame.

Meanwhile, according to O’Connor, the way back to acceptance and a resurrection of the will to survive might also have to pass back up through these stages.

DEALING EFFECTIVELY WITH THE UNEXPECTED

In today’s business environment, shop owners are frequently hit with shocking losses. Previously reliable sources of business suddenly fold up, move away or shift their business to a competitor. Previously reliable employees suddenly leave, often taking a lot of business along with them. Unexpected financial emergencies can suddenly drain capital resources, leaving shop owners in a highly vulnerable condition.

While few of these shocks compare to the loss of a loved one, they nevertheless trigger a similar emotional sequence. Few of us ever really face a sudden loss head-on, recognizing all of the implications immediately. Most of us tend to initially minimize the loss, mentally denying the magnitude of the impact on our business or our life.

Another major problem can be the infectious disease of doubt, fear, anger and negativity. The man or woman at the top is the captain of the ship to whom the crew looks for leadership and inspiration. When the captain is fearful and uncertain or frustrated and angry, those emotions can infect the entire work force.

Like a hot potato being tossed from person to person, the angry word or the suggestion of hopelessness can be passed from the top down, from employee to employee, to the point where it is passed on to the customer and the potential customer. At this point, it can have a devastating negative effect on marketing and image. The negativity then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

LESSONS FROM WORLD WAR II

Over the years, I have seen many shops all but destroyed by earthquakes, fire or even theft, and the reaction generally has been very positive. Insurance people were called in, and reconstruction was soon begun. People recognized that these were unavoidable impacts and took a strong, positive approach to getting their businesses back in order.

The first rule for effectively dealing with loss was probably best stated by Winston Churchill during World War II: “One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything—NEVER!”

So, while the first reaction to loss is often “denial and disbelief,” there is no substitute for facing directly up to the impact of a loss. That means it’s time to bring out the computer or calculator to determine exactly how much damage has been done, to the penny if possible. It might be a painful exercise, but facing a known enemy is always preferable to facing a shadowy figure in the mist. The certainty of what must be done to recover will also go far in alleviating infectious negative emotions.


Tom Franklin, author of Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth, has been a sales and marketing consultant for more than 40 years.

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