A crucial part of leadership (some may argue the most important) is being able to handle problems as they arise. A down market is a special kind of problem in that you can’t take ownership of it, or correct it yourself: you can only respond to it. The way you choose to respond defines you as a leader and your business as a whole. What will you do?
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your head above water during major sea changes. It all comes down to your own response, and crafting the right one will ensure you and your business don’t sink.
Keep your head on straight
First and foremost — don’t panic! The greatest misstep you can make in these situations is acting on irrational impulses. Panicking in downturns can take many forms: drastic decisions, poorly thought-out layoffs and other actions that will likely hurt you more than they help. When your car pops a tire, do you throw your hands up and decide to start walking? Or do you pull over, get down in the grime and do the work to get moving again?
There will always be leaner times and fatter ones. Rather than a disaster, think of the tough times as an opportunity to make the most of the resources you already have: your experience, your team, your attitude and your principles. Even when times are good, shore up the strong foundation so that you’ll be able to lean upon it when things take a turn downward. Because they will.
Draw on your experience
For one, you can take stock of how you responded the last time it happened. Go through your records and really think critically about what you did during the previous downturn that you and your business survived. Did you just make it by the skin of your teeth, or did you come out nearly unscathed? There are lessons to be gleaned no matter what the result was.
Even if you’re pretty new to entrepreneurship, think back to any point in your life when the odds seemed stacked against you. Maybe in school you had tough classes and a packed schedule with deadlines looming. How did you respond? Just as we’re always learning, we’re always given opportunities to use what we’ve already learned.
Leverage your network
Another way to stay afloat is by reaching out to those you trust most. The importance of a strong professional network can never be overstated: it’s how you grow your business, bar none. Making connections isn’t just a growth requirement, either. In down times, your contacts in other industries may be doing just fine and can throw you some crucial business.
Friends and family members are always there to help if you need it as well. Don’t think of it as begging for charity — you’re making use of one of the best resources you have. There’s no shame in reaching out to others to help you and your business make it through the storm. For extra help, advice, or just a thoughtful ear to vent to, never underestimate those closest to you. They understand what you’re going through better than you might think.
Embrace the challenge
Successfully overcoming a downturn is all about how you choose to approach it. No matter what your business does, a steady hand goes a long way towards survival. Never lose sight of that attitude that you had starting out, the fearless mindset that every entrepreneur has. It takes guts to set out and build something new in an often unforgiving business world, and holding onto that fearlessness is how you’ll weather every subsequent challenge.
You need to embrace challenges, not shrink from them. Starting your company in the first place was a risk, and you had to know the dangers wouldn’t end there. That stress you feel from knowing the markets aren’t where you’d like them to be? Use it, harness it, let it sharpen your focus. It’s out of your hands, so there’s no use stressing over it and overreacting when you should instead be planning your next steps.
Panicking, losing sight of your principles, thinking you can take it all on your shoulders — these are the ways to lose sight of success when the market stumbles. If you can avoid panicking, you’ll make it through the troubling times into a better future. Once the ship rights itself, you’ll want to be ready to hop right back on.
This article was originally published on Entrepreneur