I admit it. I’m a bit of a control freak. As much as I may take a hands-off approach to managing individuals, for my direct areas of responsibility I want to make sure I have  as much control over strategy and execution as possible. As more bad news about the economy continues to bombard us from all media, it occured to me that while there are certain market realities that are beyond our control, this tenuous business environment provides a great opportunity to look internally at operational efficiencies and make sure that we’re maximizing all available resources to the fullest. One of the areas to look at is individual contribution.

Motivation and attitude are critical success factors when it comes to weathering any econoimic downturn. Every deal takes longer, it is harder for people to feel comfortable with capital expenditures, and even harder to get those expenditures approved. Everyone on your team needs to be motivated to contribute in ways they may not be entirely comfortable with or have been asked to contribute before.

Team chemistry can play a significant role in how well companies perform in difficult times. Look at the culture of your company. Is it open? Is it a culture that encourages out of the box thinking and new ideas? How does your company deal with mistakes and failure? It is more important in tough economic times to have your teams feel empowered to make decisions, as paralysis and fear of failure can tend to take over. If performance is dropping, people tend to get more conservative, often leading to lost opportunities and additional mistakes.

Every business either has or will be faced with challenges, either from external sources such as the market, economy, oil prices, natural disaters, etc. and since many of these factors are beyond any individual’s control, it can have a negative polarizing effect on morale and productivity.

To counter this, every team within the company should meet regularly and discuss their current situation and how they might gain some additional efficiencies by making some changes to either how they are approaching their objectives and daily tasks, or by looking at the day-to-day workflow and better prioritizing their activities. Often some minor tweaking can result in significant productivity improvements, and if each team is focused on improving their individual performance then it can have a company-wide positive impact – generating a positive mindset focused on what each person can absolutely control – how they approach their job.

I try and stress to my teams as much as possible that the only thing we can control absolutely is our level of effort and commitment to our positions. This attitude has served me well in the past, particularly during the internet bubble burst earlier this decade. At my previous company we were hit very hard by this, with almost three quarters of the company being laid off. For those of us who remained, we banded together and approached everyday as an opportunity to do better, to maximize our efforts and opportunity to keep the company not only alive, but to turn our fortunes around.

We are fortunate to work at a company where our software helps our customers become more efficient, more profitable, and in turn help them releive anxieties about survival in a down market. By focusing on how we can help our customers realize adjustments and efficiencies in their day-to-day activities, everyone in the company – sales, product, customer service, and operations – will be contributing to our customer’s success, which will have a dramatic impact on our own.