LL: Many companies are stuck in a holding pattern right now because of the uncertainties ranging from regulation, health care and taxes. They are not hiring and doing more with less. What are the strategies to kick a company to the next level with these headwinds?
GC: It is ridiculous to wait because these issues will not change very quickly. Remember you are in business to make money. When you started your business it was based on an idea or product, not on regulation, taxes and health care. Make your move now before others do. If you can get a head start, take it. If I can get a leap on the competition, I want it. Regardless of these things, you want to "Expand" your company not contract it. Get a head start - make your move before all signals are "Go."
LL: I've had CEOs tell me when there are tears there are opportunities. Seizing the day when others are paralyzed by fear. What should entrepreneurs be doing in order to capture opportunity?
GC: If the world is going to go to hell in a hand basket, it's going to be like that for everybody —It is easier to gain market share when things are contracting than when they are expanding. When the economy is expanding, everyone gets some market. When it is contracting only the disciplined, the aggressive and the persistent get market. Fear causes people to introvert, contract and retreat- to be more conservative.
That is a formula for opportunity. Those that are counterintuitive and do the opposite will expand and conquer. Imagine less competitors, no defense—all receivers wide open down field - should you move the ball down the field or call a time out. There is so much bad news at this time that doing what others are not doing takes tremendous courage, but that is what makes a leader in the market. Business expansion is about courage at a time when it doesn't feel right or is uncomfortable. Sometimes your decision comes down to, "if I am going to fail, do I want to fail on the attack or fail on the retreat?" I would rather go down swinging!
LL: What are the top steps in turning a company around?
GC: Number one you need to identify the right problem. Most companies and managers are unable to identify the correct problem because they are so covered up in difficulties. Consider that if you have not identified the 'right' problem, you will not be able to find the right solutions. Most companies spend all their time talking about budgets, employment, taxes, regulation, government—but none of these items are the real problem and most are not in your control.
Also, these for the most part are problems shared by all companies in your space, and if it is an issue for everybody then it is not the problem. Find that one thing that'll move the bar the fastest and immediately change conditions. Then get all your attention, every employee and management focused on taking actions to move that one thing. What I have discovered after years of working with companies is that they get lost in complexities and abstract concepts. Especially at this time it is easy to get lost in the bad news and massive amounts of negativity.
Executives and management become dispersed, spending their time on problems rather than solutions, hopelessness rather than action. The first thing every company must do is to decide that they are going to turn around the company and that no one else can or will.
LL: How would you characterize the economy right now?
GC: I would describe this economy as an OPPORTUNITY, not a problem.
Businesses that see this economy as an opportunity and then demand that their people take more action, promote more, reach more clients, persist more with their clients and go above and beyond anything considered normal will capture market share. It is easier to gain market share when things are tough than when things are easy.
No one in their right mind would ask for an economy like this, but when you get it don't waste time complaining about it. Spend your time taking advantage of it. Most people are still complaining about an economy that has been bad for 30 months and counting. Plan on another 30 months of the same and do everything you can to take market share from the whiners.
LL: Its very easy to be negative in this tough economic times. What positives has this economic turmoil created?
GC: First about the negativity, anything that is that plentiful, has no value. At this time, negativity is in large quantities—no supply issues on negative people and negative reports. It is the rare commodities on this planet that are the most valuable. Positive attitudes and courage are rare commodities right now, and they are admired by both customers and employees.
Companies that provide leadership suggest that this is an opportunity to dominate. To do the counterintuitive thing—leading when other people won't move, being optimistic when the world is pessimistic, or being a solution when everybody else is just participating or contributing to the problem, those are valuable things.
The positive things that have come out of this are that families and companies have gotten their balance sheets in better shape. People clearly look at debt differently than they did not so long ago. I also believe people are starting to see that the government cannot fix the problem and those that have moved beyond the blame game are becoming more self reliant. I also see companies getting more creative, more interested in creating customers for life, and remaking themselves for this new economy.
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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."