Having a bad day, Bunky? Well, build a bridge and get over it. Or, you could take the high road and calmly deal with issues in a more reasonable way. That’s where AmyK Hutchens comes in. As a business strategist and executive coach, she likes to look at stress as inevitable, but something that can be dealt with in a positive way.
AmyK and I had agreed to talk about stress as it applies to the small to medium business owner, and four areas of business stress that I identified as: Financial, Employees, Market Conditions, and Product Innovation. Looking over the advance material before our phone conversation, I was prepared for AmyK to deliver one of those touchy-feely motivational talks; the kind of discussion that comes across as ‘Follow my five steps to peace and tranquility, and don’t sweat the small stuff’.
Well, I missed that one by a long shot. What I discovered was that she is one of those no nonsense, tell it like it is, kind of coaches. This was no time for chit chat; she got right to the point when I asked about the financial pain of running a business. "Cash is king. With credit card reform on the horizon and minimal access to loans, it's imperative that business owners cut everywhere possible, and cut deep.", she said.
In some ways her advice is no different than reading about Fortune Brands Inc. in last Friday’s (May 21, 2010) The Wall Street Journal . In the story, “The Tap Is Turned Back On at Fortune Brands”, they talk about how the MasterBrand Cabinet division “…cut about 10,000 jobs, or about 40% of its work force, and it closed about 25 factories…” to survive the housing downturn over the last three years.
But, in the same story, they talk about how innovation played a key role in their recovery, which now has them adding jobs. In a like way, AmyK made it clear in our conversation that "Innovation doesn't happen when you're overwhelmed, stressed and depressed. Innovation happens when you step back, truly reflect on what's happening, and ask yourself the better question. Ask yourself: What are our customers resisting? What are they judging? What are they attached to?" She wants you to become savvy about your customers, keeping close tabs on what they are doing, and constantly ask questions of the customer to find out what’s going on in their world.
AmyK seems to be a fan of outsourcing, or putting projects out to others, if it’s not a part of your core competencies, or competitive advantage. Yet she is keen to talk about leadership and the value employees bring to the company. When asked about employee morale in a down economy, AmyK said "Company morale is reflective of leadership. The economy is what it is. Leaders need to share a realistic and hopeful vision for the company, and then clearly define the role and value each employee contributes to that vision. Create a compelling future for them in your company."
In order to control stress for the average business owner, she advocates putting controls in place and having a clear picture of where you and your company should be at any one point in time. She believes that a fuzzy picture leads to uncertainty, and in turn builds fear (of the unknown). It’s the fear factor that often contributes to the stress we feel in our business and personal life.
No surprise, in closing she did offer-up a simple four-step process to “Short Circuit the Stress Cycle” and help us all decompress a bit. Here’s the abridged version (on my part):
1. Prioritize & Simplify
Assign each priority a chunk of time and then live within the parameters of that scheduled list. Follow up that time-framed list with another list of new priorities or re-prioritized activities.
2. Place yourself in time-out.
By removing yourself from a stressful environment or giving yourself a moment to biologically shift, you aid your immune system in getting back to healthy. A few deep breaths while you're in time-out is an added bonus.
3. Get a giggle.
Laughter reduces your stress hormones and literally changes your body chemistry. Humor releases endorphins and antibody enhancers which aid your immune system. Schedule 30 minutes to watch a funny sitcom or read a humorous book.
4. Put it in perspective.
Changing your perspective, your thoughts, is the most effective tool we have for reducing our stress and it's the least used tool by people when they're experiencing stress. The goal is to change your perspective to less painful thoughts.
AmyK Hutchens, Founder and Intelligence Activist, AmyK Inc., is a speaker, business strategist and executive coach. She is best known for helping business leaders capitalize on how the brain and human perception filters work to help them be more effective in business and their personal lives.