The Pressure Test: Manage or Meltdown

Every business goes through periods of high stress. It’s when varying combinations of sluggish sales, tight cash flow, employee problems, productivity issues, customer complaints, and the like, merge together like the weather systems in “The Perfect Storm.” Business stress can lead to what I fondly call “owners’ nights” - waking up at 3:00 a.m. in a cold sweat. High-stress situations can lead to a further degrading of the issues that initiated the pressure in the first place. The inherent danger is allowing such situations to spiral out of control.

If you equate high-stress situations to a steam boiler, it’s easy to see how they can lead to catastrophe. As the pressure gauge enters the red danger zone, the weakest parts of the boiler system begin to spring leaks. The steam and hissing from the leaks not only grab attention, they warn of impending disaster if not managed and contained.

Leaders and businesses are pressure-tested every day. And in these stressful economic times, those pressure tests are becoming more frequent. Here are some no-compromise strategies to manage your way through the pressure tests and avoid meltdowns:


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  • Address the weakest links now: In most cases, you know exactly where and what they are. Cash is tight and you’re not paying attention to your numbers? It’s time to go no-compromise with your financial controls. Has your company’s sense of urgency taken a siesta? It’s time to revisit your vision, polish it up to a brilliant shine, put a pin on the win map - and lead your company to victory. Just remember, weak links are typically found in areas and accountabilities that leaders avoid or are uncomfortable digging into.
  • Make “change” a constant: Leaks occur in organizations that experience few or no change initiatives. It’s just human nature to settle in and get comfortable. That’s why you always head straight for the same seat on the second day of a seminar. The opposite of change is stagnation. If your company starts springing leaks when it tries to implement even minor change, it’s going to fail the pressure test. If you want a dynamic company, you must relentlessly improve your systems.
  • Speaking of systems: Inconsistency is an indicator of missing or inadequate systems. Inconsistency guarantees a meltdown at low-pressure levels. To survive and thrive, you and your company must embrace systemization in every nook and cranny. Rest assured, creativity and innovation thrive when supported by the right systems.
  • If it needs to be done - get it done: Accountability is the foundation of no-compromise leadership. It’s the secret sauce of world-class success. Build and nurture a no-compromise culture and the needle on the pressure-test gauge will float happily in the “normal zone.”

At first, these four bullet points may seem academic, but you and I both know that work needs to be done in every one. Why? Is that a hissing sound I hear?

Share this blog post with your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO 

About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and award-winning author. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to You can email Neil at [email protected].