Crowd of people walking

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl

With all the talk about a possible recession in the U.S., it seems like the right time to seriously consider several preparation tactics for your business. In my experience, the key to surviving and even thriving during the next possible retraction cycle is to do an introspection exercise and ask yourself if you are vested and emotionally willing to navigate the enormous challenges that any medium or small business will need to tackle in 2020. In short: What is your why?

For years, I’ve challenged the passive notion that professional success or failure in any business occurs mostly outside of anyone’s control. It is true that there are external factors that influence your professional exposure and potential success, including the varying economic cycles, but none of these factors should dictate your final success outcome. It must come from within. It is my strong, personal belief that anyone with a clear sense of self and a sound business plan can take control of his or her own future and, ultimately, become successful in any business.

But let’s be honest. I only learned these lessons in retrospect. On paper, my original business plan was doomed to fail. I had founded a company without any substantial professional nor even personal connections within the field. Furthermore, I chose Puerto Rico, a small market which has been undergoing a recession for the last thirteen years. In fact, it wasn’t until our firm almost went extinct in 2008, that I realized that I had to do something differently. I had no choice but to internalize, decide and develop a roadmap for survival. The decision was easy; either I was willing to fight and hone a viable business strategy in order to survive—or I would go extinct.

Only after a long and laborious, soul-searching process was I finally able to confront the existential question:

Why do I do what I do?

I know this sounds simplistic but, when was the last time you really asked yourself this question? This introspection exercise is meant to force you to revisit some areas or aspects of yourself that you may not have taken the time to address in years. Like, why do you choose to do what you do? Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept, developed in his book Good to Great, states that for a company to attain sustainable success, three things are required: skill, passion and economic remuneration. Asking why is a combination of both passion and skill. If you have skill without passion you could make money, but you will become miserable doing it. If you have passion and no skill it at all, it would be difficult to attain economic remuneration. But if you identify your skill, you have a passion for it and clients are willing to pay you for it, you will have found your “why“. Business is hard. But when you are good at something, have a passion for it and can get paid for it, you will have the resilience necessary to make your business recession-proof.

As business owners, we need to keep asking ourselves “why do we do what we do” throughout our lifetimes so that we can make the necessary tweaks and adjustments to grow both as professionals and as people. It’s never too late to know yourself and to discover what you are truly passionate about in life. It all starts with yourself. Even with all the outside chaos - if you want to be recession-proof- you need to start looking within.

Architect and Vice Chairman Board of Directors of Invest Puerto Rico

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