Fear Factor: Frozen In The Headlights…

When a rabbit strays onto a road and gets caught in the glare of the headlights, it freezes on the spot.  It hopes that by standing still it won’t get hurt by this strange predator with shining eyes.

This strategy comes from evolution.  When a hungry beast is out hunting for food, it looks for movement to find its next meal.  The trouble is, the car isn’t a hunter, it’s a modern invention that evolution has not yet caught up with.  By standing still, the rabbit is at a much higher risk of kicking the bucket.

The same is happening in businesses up and down the land.  As a business coach I see it all the time.  People are caught in the fear of the continuing banking turmoil and getting frozen by fear.  If you stand still, you’re giving yourself the worst possible chance of survival.

No News Is Good News

If you read the newspapers or blogs about business and the economy, you can easily become depressed by how awful things are and how bad they could become.  Reading an article about the economy already in recession there’s a call for cuts and help from government for small business.  Unfortunately a great big hand is unlikely to reach from the sky and inject £100,000 into your business…

So how exactly is reading the news helping you?  What does it add to your day apart from an unhealthy dose of paranoia, fear and frustration for the economic mismanagement wrought large by short term thinking of the banks?  It’s not going to help your financial position – you’d be better off putting together a cash flow forecast for your business.

So here’s an important practical tip…

If you find yourself feeling miserable about the economy on a daily basis, here’s a prescription to help you.  Stop listening to the news on the radio, tv and cancel your daily newspapers.  Find a good book or audio-book on business and use your time positively with that instead.

At worst you’ll avoid being depressed.  At best, you’ll discover something to boost your business and yourself.  And you might even feel good about yourself too…

Get Out Of The Headlights

It’s time to behave differently to your competition.  Do something that will make you stand out to your customers and they’ll come to you instead.  Fear is nature’s way of telling us that there’s a potential threat to us.  That’s useful – we need to know that some kind of different action to normal is required.  Just don’t be caught by your natural response and do nothing, or you’ll be another piece of economic road-kill.

Here’s a definition of fear you can use to remind you of it’s root…

Expecting to

This old definition is fine if you’re out hunting for dinner and keeping yourself safe from sabre-tooth tigers.  It won’t help you to make more sales and drive your business forwards through the slowdown, though.

In his great book about how to achieve multi-million pound wealth from business, Felix Dennis, the multi-millionaire founder of Dennis Publishing, suggests living a day without fear to see how much you can achieve.  So what could you achieve if you did that?  What do you avoid because of rabbit in the headlights syndrome?

The Credit Crunch & Your Business

Here’s a different way of thinking about the state of the economy and how it will affect your business…

You don’t have a crystal ball.  You cannot predict what’s going to happen in six months’ time and you can’t personally impact the economy in any real way.  And as far as predictions go, you can’t reliably predict what will happen even as close as next week.

But the interesting thing is this.  If you keep doing all the right things today to strengthen and improve your business, increase your profits and become more successful than you are now, whatever happens in 6 months or a year will be far easier for you to face if you’ve done something every day, week and month until then to improve your business.

Meanwhile let your competition stay frozen in the headlights.


  1. James on October 14th, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Funnily enough – I read that whilst CNBC was on in the background! Lots of valid points in that article – there’s nothing to be gained by getting down about the situation – may as well press forward as hard as possible.

    I’ll turn CNBC off with that in mind as well!!

  2. Lee on October 14th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Lol James,

    It’s amazing how these things pervade everything we do. The story was inspired by some recent conversations with clients. If we get too taken in by the fear factor, it stops us doing the very things that will protect us.

    Glad to hear that CNBC have lost a viewer as a result of my influence! Shhh, don’t tell them 😉


  3. Peter Feeney on October 14th, 2008 at 5:30 pm


    I am in the throws of starting up my own business which deals in the house building market and totaly agree with what you are saying. I have stopped watching and reading about the CREDIT CRUNCH and am pressing forward with my plans without fear.

    Thanks for the inspiration…


  4. Lee on October 14th, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Peter,

    Good on you! Just make sure you’ve got a big enough target market so that you’re not struggling to find customers who are willing and in need of your services. The property market is slow at the moment and you’ll need to make sure you are very clear about who you will sell to and what you’ll be offering to them. Maybe even chat to a few before starting up?

    One of my clients wanted to invest in building a new mortgage brokerage in late spring and I advised against it, because of timing in terms of real market conditions (reduced pool of lenders, shrinking range of products and his lack of a worthwhile client base). Instead they went after a different market, also related to property, and are flying.

    Good luck in your new venture,


  5. Ian Brodie | Professional Services Consultant on October 20th, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Lee,

    Your post reminds me of the old anecdote about Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby. This was in the early days of Ferguson’s reign before results had begun to go his way. Evey time he opned a newspaper there was another story about how he was going to be sacked – and it was depressing him.

    He asked Busby what to do.

    Busby’s answer: stop reading them.

    So he did. He focused on the performance of the team instead and eventually turned things round. The rest is history.


  6. Lee on October 20th, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Hi Ian,

    That’s brilliant thanks, exactly the point of my story and a brilliant example of what to do with it. It must be so difficult being a top football club manager with all the opinions of the press whining about you every day.

    Which reminds me of a quote I heard a few years ago, “Opinions are like armpits; everybody will normally have two and nobody else has to like them.”

    So if you hear something you don’t like, just tell yourself it stinks 😀



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