How to find business opportunity in times of uncertainty — Meridith Elliott Powell

Many of today’s leaders and business owners are uncertain and a little anxious about a potential economic downturn. Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re pleased to welcome Meridith Elliot Powell, award-winning business expert, keynote speaker, and popular author of 30 Days to Sales Success. In this segment, Powell discusses how business leaders can navigate and thrive through times of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is nothing new for business owners and leaders, but what could they accomplish if they believed that uncertainty always led to opportunity, even if it was negative? That is precisely what Powell set out to answer when writing her book Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Meridith thank you so much for joining us on the show. We very much appreciate your time.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
I’m looking forward to being here, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So as you know, as I said in the opening there, there are so many business owners right now that are, they wake up to their phone and they say, oh my gosh, we got interest rates that are high and gas prices and inflation and there’s a war that broke out and we’re just coming off of COVID in large part. Obviously it’s still out there and we’re not completely done with it, but there has been a lot of uncertainty. There’s still is a lot of uncertainty and having said that, we did hear you speak, my wife and I, at an event recently in Virginia and we were like, she really brings it home with how to deal with uncertainty. So I’d like you to share with our viewers your take on these times and how businesses and business owners can survive and to your point thrive during these crazy times.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
You know, Jim, it’s so interesting. I really started on this journey back in 2018 and 2019 and that seems like a whole world away now, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Oh, that’s for sure.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
When the economy was rocking and things were good. But even back then, when I would talk to business owners and ask how things are going, they would say, oh my gosh, we’re having our best year on record.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
But oh, this uncertainty, we’re always waiting for the ball to drop.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
And that just got me thinking like, what could you do as a business owner if you believed that uncertainty always led to opportunity, even if it was negative. And then I wanted to write the methodology and help business owners because if you own a business, the world is uncertain. This is nothing new. But I wanted people to shift their mindset to believe that even when the biggest obstacle is in front of them, opportunity is out there if they can just push through it. And that’s really what the whole book and the premise is about.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Let’s talk about the book. What do you want the reader to leave with? I should probably start off by saying, what was the motivation behind writing it and then what do you want the viewer to leave with or the reader?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah, the motivation behind writing it was again with all this uncertainty I just thought to myself, well gosh, this isn’t anything new, right? I mean, businesses have been through, if you look down through history, my gosh, they’ve come through world wars, economic depression, far bigger issues than we have ever been through. But if you study history you will see that even in our most dire times some of our greatest breakthroughs have happened and it’s a small percentage of the population, a small percentage of businesses that are able to capitalize on uncertainty. So there’s two things I want people to get from the book. Number one is a mindset that when your obstacle is in front of you beyond that is your greatest opportunity. The other is I wanted to take the guesswork out of how to navigate uncertainty. So this book is the methodology. Exactly what you need to do. I will guarantee if you promise it, if you follow it, it will be your greatest competitive advantage.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I’m sure it will be. Can you share with us some of the tips that you’ve got in the book?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah. I’ll share a couple of my favorites. Strategy number two is condition yourself for change. We studied Jim Beam in Prohibition. So I don’t care any business owners that is listening to us, I can’t imagine trying to grow a business at a time when your government could shut you down at any moment.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
But we know that change is coming and change can be your greatest opportunity if you prepare for it, if you ignore it’s going to bury you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
So we talk and condition yourself for change. How you literally predict the future, how you are so ready that no matter what shows up you’re able to capitalize on it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
And then another one of my favorite strategies is the fact that it is, most people think that when uncertainty hits we tend to pull back, not grow our businesses.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
But uncertainty is one of the greatest times to grow, but you have to grow from the inside out.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
If you listen to your customers, they’ll tell you their biggest problems, their biggest challenges, their biggest obstacles, that’s your path to growth and profitability.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. That’s a very good point. What’s your suggestion to leaders of companies and managers that are dealing with staff’s, sales departments and such where they’re affected by the uncertainty and they’re coming in each day wondering if they have what it takes to win during these times and whether or not you’re even going to be in business. I mean, so many business owners that we have spoken to and managers in leadership positions have said, it’s tough for me to go in because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. There’s a shortage of merchandise. There’s challenges in financing and such so it’s hard for us to lead these individuals, but what tips would you have for those leaders and business owners out there that have got to lead a team and keep them motivated to go out and do what they need to do each day?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Such a great question. In uncertain times we forget to include the people that are on our teams and the reason people hate uncertainty is because you feel out of control. You’re just waiting for them to show up and give you a pink slip or wait for them to show up and lower your salary. So if I were leading a team, and when I lead my own team, I include them in the process.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
These nine steps and strategies that I developed, they’re not just for leadership, they’re for everybody involved.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
While you can’t guarantee anybody anything, you can give them a voice and allow them to be listened to. And if you do that, they are going to go all in and help you grow your company.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
No question about it. And if you’ve got this winning mindset during these challenging times so much of it is mental. Isn’t it?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Is to have that positive mental attitude every day, to say to yourself I’m going to get through this. I’m going to win. These are challenging times, but they’re not going to beat me. Right. So many people that you talk to that maybe don’t make it through challenging times will say, oh, I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t put up with the uncertainty or the pressure or what have you and I threw in the towel only to realize that if I had stayed in the game just a little bit longer things might have worked out or gotten better. Right. Do you find that out there?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah. Absolutely. And you know it’s understandable. I mean, this is exhausting. I own a business too and some days are just better than others, but one of the strategies that we have in the book is about a relentless vision. That you have to be so focused on your vision that every time an obstacle pops up you’re able to see past it. But you know, Jim, what that’s really is about is conditioning your brain. What I love in the research I found with this book is your brain will find what you feed it. So believe me, I’m like everybody else out there. I have bad days where I just get up and I think, gosh, are you going to throw one more thing at me?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
But I focus on that vision where I see my life, my health, my finances, my team a year from now, because my brain will find what I feed it. So for any business owner listening to us, you have to see beyond the obstacle to the difference you’re making with your customers, to the way you’re transforming your industry. You focus there and your mind will find a way to achieve it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
I believe that into my bones and the research has proved it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. I agree. I agree. And so many people during these trying times have pivoted their businesses, right?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And come out way ahead than the way they went into these times. Talk to us about that.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah. You know, I think one of the most interesting things that I found is at the beginning of COVID, when I was out talking about the book or sharing the book, I was talking to the organizations that got wiped out by COVID, that they really couldn’t figure out how to pivot.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
And I was helping them figure out how to pivot. Now it’s about those organizations that did pivot, found a way to get through the first level of uncertainty.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Now they’re exhausted and worn out by the continuous level of uncertainty.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
So, that’s the uncertain thing about uncertainty. No matter where you are it’s going to get you. So the methodology, the formula has to be used over and over again. Uncertainty would be so easy if it only had one phase. We got an uncertain and we got to get through it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
And then life was good.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
But if we have seen anything in the last couple of years, it just keeps coming.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
So you have to, having a systematic way to work through it just gives you the ability to make progress and that’s really what you want to make in an uncertain environment. Just keep moving forward.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And you would agree that there’s so much opportunity out there.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
During these times, that came out of these times, right. That was, that opportunity might not have been there in 2019, right?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Absolutely. If you own a business, your customers need you far more now than they needed you in 2018 and 19.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Good point.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
And that’s why there’s opportunity. Now, what you have to understand is what you sold before the uncertainty hit may be the same product, but it’s not solving the same problem.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
So listen to your customers, listen what they need and then go fill that. But I believe there’s more opportunity on uncertain times than there is in certain times for a couple of reasons. Number one is customers need you more than ever. They need somebody to help them get through this.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
The second is businesses don’t make it and so the field thins, you have less competitors. So you have more opportunity now. You believe that, you follow the methodology, you’re going to do really well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. There’s no question about it. You make it sound so easy and if somebody buys the book, they can see how easy it actually is so we’re going to make it available. We’re showing it right now on the screen with all the information right below this interview. You can click to get it. I see highly suggest you don’t wait a minute to get it because it’s got all the information in there that you need as a leader today, as a business owner to make it through these uncertain times and so Meridith Elliot Powell, I want to thank you so much for joining us on the show. We very much appreciate. It’s no wonder you’re an award-winning business expert and keynote speaker, bestselling author. By the way, any new books that you’re working on right now that… I’m sure there are, I’m sure there’s another one in you, right?

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Yeah. I’m taking the uncertainty piece to the employee challenge and show people how to capitalize on what—turn the great resignation into your greatest opportunity. I’ll have that one out this fall.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is fantastic. Well, Meridith, thank you so much for joining us on the show. I know that our viewers and subscribers will get so much out of your visit so thanks so much.

Meridith Elliot Powell:
Thank you, Jim. I really appreciate it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great.


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