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Updated 29 Feb 2020

The bean-counter in the cave

Don’t panic and go into survival mode in tough times.

Douglas Kruger, Entrepreneur, 24 October 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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It’s been a tough season. The hunters have only brought in three buffalo, and three is not enough.

The clan won’t make it through the winter. Their bottom-line is looking unhealthy, but they have a bigger problem: The bean-counter in the cave…

The hunters have asked to eat one of the buffalo, requiring strength to go out again and hunt more, but the bean-counter in the cave won’t allow it.

He argues that times are hard. They only have three buffalo, he states, which is not enough, and the buffalo must be preserved.

The clan is divided. Hunker down and survive? Or sacrifice some in the hunt for more?

Corporate Caves and Survival Mode

Whether it’s a force as big as worldwide recession, or merely a temporary financial knock in your industry, hard times do some interesting things to our thinking.

Of course, the quality of our thought may determine whether we last or lapse, and nowhere is this more evident than in organizations.

Companies going through a tough period make the same mistake as the bean-counter in the cave. Their thinking shifts.

They panic and go into Survival Mode. They focus exclusively on the bottom-line. They’re all about the three buffalo, because that’s what they can see, and nothing else exists.

Yet survival, as it turns out, is about the top-line.

Preservation of buffalo during lean times is important but incidental. Of much greater urgency and value is the accumulation of new buffalo. In fact, only new buffalo will see an organization through its winter.

Think about it this way: If there are not enough buffalo in the cave, no amount of conserving will ensure survival.

Similarly, expending all of your energy trying to cling to too little money is the beginning of an organizational death-spiral, and it is a poor use of strategic thought.

Your Clan’s Critical Shift

The critical mental shift is simply this: Decide to apportion only 20 per cent of your time and energy to plugging holes. Conserving buffalo is important but incidental. Apportion the other 80 per cent of your energy to the real solution: hunting.

During tough times, hunting becomes everything. Your survival depends upon it and you must do it vigorously, aggressively and with more focus than ever before.

Speak Energy Into Your Cave

An important part of your survival effort is encouraging the hunters. During tough times, you cannot allow the bean-counter in the cave to speak doom unto the clan. You, as the leader, must keep their fires burning.

You must begin by recognizing that you are in a tough-times scenario. Say it out loud: “I only have three buffalo, and three is not enough.” Ignoring the low buffalo count is called denial, and it’s dangerous to your clan.

Then, having perceived and accepted your scenario, you must act to change it: Gather your hunters by the fire.

Arm them better than ever. Encourage them more than usual. Empower them more than you have ever done before. Incentivize them to a greater extent than usual and reward them much more than you’ve historically done.

They are the life of your clan and their capacity to hunt is everything. Their will to hunt is everything. Sharpen their spears and send them after buffalo. Do it well, and you will see another summer?

The buffalo are out there. Don’t let the bean-counter win.

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About the author

Douglas Kruger, Entrepreneur

Douglas Kruger is the only speaker in Africa to have won the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking a record five times. He is the author of ‘50 Ways to Become a Better Speaker,’ published in South Africa and Nigeria, ‘50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert,’ and co-author of ‘So You’re in Charge. Now What? 52 Ways to Become a Better Leader.’ See Douglas in action, or read his articles, at Email him at [email protected], or connect with him on Linked In or Twitter: @DouglasKruger

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