What are you doing to grow your business?

***Update: I wrote this post in early 2009, but I think the message is still relevant today, perhaps even more so.***

I can’t sleep because I’m worried about people falling off boats.

If you are clinging to the side of a ship while wearing a life preserver, you may take some small comfort in knowing that if you fall the vest will help get you back to the surface, but it doesn’t change the fact that you know in your bones that you’re going to get wet.

I think that’s how a lot of folks are feeling about the current state of the economy. We’re afraid of the plunge. We can get paralyzed simply grasping for something sensible to hold onto – Ok, so now we have a stimulus package, maybe that’s the life preserver, but if you’re already hanging over the wrong side of the rail it can’t keep you dry.

So what are you going to do? Just hang on tight and hope that a safety net comes in time? Not if you’re smart. The smart play is to scramble and climb back over onto the right side of the rail before your strength gives out.

Scramble. Climb. Grow. Get strong. Save the economy.

That’s right, save the economy. Why not you? It’s not like the government can do it alone. Besides, this is America. we are a community of scramblers and self-starters – and it is the small businesses like yours and mine that make the difference. When we grow the economy grows. While so many are asking “What can I do to hang onto my business?” the question I urge you to ask of yourself and your colleagues is “What are you doing (even now) to grow your business?” Even now. Especially now.

It is easy to fall into the recession mindset. Easy to look only at cutting costs, saving the bottom line, but if you make the effort to keep this question in mind, “What are you doing (especially now) to grow your business?” you can change that mindset – and change your results. Ask the question every day. Especially now.

This isn’t about being reckless. The fact is that some prudent pruning might be just what the doctor (or accountant) ordered, but don’t just cut for the sake of cutting. Trim a weak branch if it will help a tree to grow, but trim too much and everything withers. The point that I think is essential is to keep this idea of growth top of mind. Sure, it is unapologetically optimistic, but it also implies keeping an eye out for opportunity. It is a reminder to keep planting seeds. The concept of asking for growth despite the tide is a deliberate challenge. To meet that challenge takes creativity, cooperation and bold execution – all good muscles to flex for any business – especially now.

So what are you doing to grow your business? Ask yourself. Ask your neighbor. And let me know when the conversation goes to “What can we do together?”

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