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September 2, 2014

If you are like me, one of the greatest challenges you face is managing people. Great managers are so hard to come by.

And just because you own the business, doesn’t mean you are a good manager. There is a huge difference between being a successful entrepreneur and being a successful manager. For me, managing people has been harder than building my business.

When I got the invitation to join a monthly CEO roundtable group, I jumped at the chance. Their meetings are held in New York at different venues each month. Normally, we network for a while and then break into groups for discussions that are about things that will help us run our businesses better.

When I learned who some of the folks at my first meeting were, I was blown away. There were folks in the room that had gigantic businesses – companies that were doing hundreds of millions and billions of dollars. I had to remind myself I was in New York and there were lots of Wall Street types, real estate developers, high-powered lawyers and countless other CEOs and very successful entrepreneurs.

To say that my business is the smallest in the group is an understatement. But the fact is, these folks face many of the same issues and deal with the same stresses that we pet retailers do. I want to share with you what I have been fortunate to learn from some of them.

The theme of our last meeting was “dealing with adversity.” There were 10 people in our forum. We each spoke briefly about one example of a particularly difficult time in our life or career and how we dealt with it. As my turn was approaching, all I could think about was that in 1995 I had to close a store and it almost put us under.

As I listened to each of the folks in the room, I was stunned by what “real adversity” some of these folks had faced and – for lack of a better word – defeated. The fellow next to me ran a business that provided software to many of the biggest names in the financial industry.

Guess where his and most of his customers’ offices were? Yup, in the Twin Towers. He, and his crew, managed to get the hard drives out of their computers before the towers collapsed. He rented – actually took over – a close-by Staples, put his hard drives in the computers in the Staples store and was able to continue servicing what was left of his customers’ businesses without missing a beat. His message was there is always a way to get done what you need to get done.

Another person just expanded his business by buying another business that had a big new warehouse with lots of needed production capacity. He had just started to process and pack his very seasonal orders when hurricane Sandy hit and completely flooded the building. Everything was ruined. He could have had a huge insurance claim but would have lost all the customers who had placed orders. He rallied his whole team to work around the clock to clean the building and get orders shipped. His message was make sure you treat people well. When you need them, they will be there. He never could have gotten back into business if his team didn’t put in the effort.

How do you deal with all the adversity in your business life? The guest speaker in our group gave us his six rules of dealing with problems or adversity.
1.    You own the problem. If it is your company, you own the problem.
2.    You have to be present. Don’t try and avoid the problem or conflict. It is not going away.
3.    Be calm to all observers. Your employees don’t want to see you freaking out. If you are not calm, don’t expect your crew to be.
4.    Always ask questions. Nothing is ever as it is presented to you.
5.    Focus. You cannot get distracted by other lesser things. Solve the problem.
6.    Be decisive. Your crew is looking to you to make a decision. Once you make the decision, stick to it.

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