Two weeks ago in a martial arts class, I accidentally hurt one of my best friends. Beyond the pain of the injury, it had real potential consequences for her. She was only a few weeks away from one of the many exams required to get her black belt, something she has been working toward for more than three years. I felt awful that I had hurt my friend and put her ability to reach such an important goal in jeopardy. Besides apologizing, I didn't know what to do. I didn't sleep well for several nights afterward, and I skipped class for a few days. I was afraid to face her and our mutual friends at the dojo. Who would want to train with me now?
A lot of marine business owners I've spoken with have been feeling awful too. This downturn has had an unforeseen impact on their companies, and so they've been forced to lay employees off - in many cases, hard working employees whose personal and professional goals and aspirations have taken a hit. Not only do they feel terrible about that, they're unsure about how to face those who remain. How can they reassure them and move forward together?
I found my inspiration in a story a Top 100 Dealer shared with me last year. When his business began feeling the impact of the recession, he had to make some tough decisions and let a few employees go. Rather than accepting the discomfort the layoffs caused them as something beyond his control - after all, he didn't cause the recession - he worked with those he laid off to help them find new jobs. In one case, the new job paid better. And in the other, it turned out to be a better fit, delivering more joy and satisfaction than the employee's original job. Consider the message that action sent to those laid off and those the dealership still employed.
In the end, I followed that dealer's example. I couldn't heal my friend's injury. But as a black belt, I could help her prepare for her exam. She was kind enough to forgive me and to accept my offer of help. And after training with her this week, I know she's ready to show our instructors that she has the heart, mind and body of a black belt during tomorrow's test.
We can't always avoid pain, feeling it or causing it. It's part of life. Mistakes happen. Markets - and companies - expand and contract. But we can control how we respond to it and therein influence the outcome.