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Tips for Dealing with ‘Unexpected Traffic’

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Wow, these days the world is full of uncertainty. It seems like every day starts with a new bewildering challenge to your business. One morning a tweet surprises you, disrupting markets and driving your costs up, and your next day starts with competitors driving your sales prices down. Consumers change how they prefer to buy your products and as you open the mail, you find that ‘Big Corporate’ has gobbled up yet another of your suppliers. All the while there’s a note on your desk about the private equity firm that bought one, too.

Jeez, just a few days ago you drove by the sign announcing the new location of the low-cost Scandinavian competitor that, in turn, reminded you of the rumor you heard about the one from the U.K. that is scouting your neighborhood, too. The pace of change is relentless, and that’s not counting the normal everyday hazards. It’s unpredictable, it’s non-stop and it can be quite overwhelming.

But…it’s the world we live in today, so we have no choice but to be adept at dealing with the fast pace of technology and a disruptive business culture that drives change faster and faster.

No worries, though, you’ve got this: You have what it takes to navigate through all of this ‘Unexpected Traffic.’

‘Unexpected Traffic’ is how I term the events and challenges that pop up suddenly, out of the blue – the ones that play havoc with your strategic plan. Your plan is the road map to where you want to go. It’s the journey that you plotted and planned to reach your goals for your business and for your own future.

Your plan is complete with mile posts, your desired destination and all the predictable factors that need to be accounted for. But way too often today, you also encounter additional traffic: bad weather, roadwork plus the poor decision-making of other drivers on the kitchen and bath world’s highways.

So how do you navigate all the unexpected traffic? How do you find your inner GPS to help reroute to the fastest course to your destination?

The key is to be proactive, flexible and easily adaptable. Try the following.

  1. Expect the Unexpected — Wake up every day knowing that you must be adaptable to the day’s challenges. Something is going to happen today that you did not plan for, and if you predispose yourself to that fact, you’ll be mentally ready for whatever it turns out to be.
  2. Strategically…If/Then — I have a little trick that I use to prepare for ‘surprise’ events. Think about it for a second; most of the surprising events are not truly unforeseen. You just didn’t expect them at that very moment. I prepare for these moments all the time. When I recognize even the slightest potential for hazard in the future, I create an If/Then plan. It’s truly simple: I open a blank document on my computer and put a square in the upper left corner of the page and write “If” with the particular issue written after it. Then I add an arrow pointing to a new square and write “Then” with what my solution would be. I then create a new square with “If this fails” in it and move to another square that offers a new “Then.”  I repeat this until I run out of options. It sets my mind to a solution-seeking mode instead of a problem-focused mode.
  3. Acknowledge the Dilemma — Do not ignore it. Immediately start your process to resolve. Don’t get stuck focusing on what happened; you cannot change the past. Rather, focus on what you’re going to do to make your future better.
  4. Be Positive — I work in an awesome business with a super positive team. We have crazy, unexpected obstacles every day and, when they occur, we grab hold of them enthusiastically. We refer to them as “Adventures” and revel in the challenge. Adventures are fun and exciting and that sets the right tone. We are enthusiastic about the challenge and are driven to win. The positive vibe and our self-expectation that we will achieve is the most important ingredient to our success.
  5. Don’t Assume It’s Bad — Sometimes delays in the traffic are to your benefit – especially if you are competing with the other drivers. Obstacles can offer advantage and opportunity to teams that excel in overcoming them. Some businesses sit and hope things get better, some make decisions without the facts and others give up. Rare teams look for the opportunities and map out new winning plans. Be that rare team.
  6. Remember Your Destination — Don’t let unexpected issues change your destination. Your destination is where you want to be; it’s your goal. Focus on the fact that your destination did not change, only how you are getting there has.
  7. Collect the Facts — Most of my work is from Washington DC to New York, so I know a lot about unexpected traffic. When I’m stopped looking at bright red taillights that should not be there, I don’t just jump off the road. The first thing I do is ask my phone for the best route to my destination and I review the options. I do not make decisions without the facts first. If I did, I could end up jumping off at the next exit, only to find out later that staying on the original road would have been kbetter. Do the same with your business. Do not make a reckless decision. Collect the facts first!
  8. Don’t Let Others Rush You into Following Them — Ever been on a highway that’s stopped, and you see cars driving on the shoulder trying to exit? Then you jump in behind them because you think they must know something you do not? Don’t be impulsive and follow your competitors’ actions or let others push you into doing something…just to do something. There’s an excellent chance that you’re following someone who did not have the facts and just made a quick, poor decision that you are now partaking in.
  9. Update and Communicate — Make sure that you are keeping your team and partners in the loop. Let them know where you are in your route and your new expected arrival time to your goal.
  10. Act — Once you have the facts, start your adjusted course to your company destination but remain flexible and adaptable because, in today’s world, you need to expect more unexpected traffic along the way.

And, finally, look forward to tomorrow, knowing that you are ready for all the new adventures it will bring. ▪

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