Riding the trails of the North Shore over the holiday really reminded me of operating a business over the last year. The trails on the Shore were at times dry enough to give you the sort of sure-footedness one feels in the summer. Other times they were basically covered with snow and very obviously treacherously slippery. Most of the riding though was somewhere in between in that it was a little tough to know if you had great traction or if your wheels were about to slip on something, putting your ability to keep the rubber side down in serious jeopardy.

In this sort of environment, one must develop new skills (or refine existing ones) to be able to understand and react effectively. The signs the trails provide are much more subtle than in the summer. Routes I've ridden 50 times before had to be reassessed and new lines found. I couldn't take the things for granted that I know I can in the summer — more detailed focus was needed. Basically, this sort of riding forces you to rethink the path you take and the approach you take to riding it.

For both our clients and Habanero, the last year has been a lot like winter riding. We had to watch all aspects of our health carefully, and we certainly couldn't take things for granted that we have in the past. Even the fast and fun sections of the year where we got great traction had a little tint of extra caution or even apprehension as our confidence about the overall environment was low.

I think we have done a great job of finding the new lines, as it were, down the trail we are on as a company. Yes, we are still heading to the same ultimate place (the same long-term goal or BHAG), but we want to respect the gains we've made in rethinking our path and approach and continue to evolve Habanero's ability to withstand challenge and recover from adversity.

By definition, resilience is the ability to withstand challenge and recover from adversity. Resilience is the focus of one of our annual priorities for Habanero in 2010, and we see all kinds of opportunities in areas like financial independence, corporate karma, annuity revenue streams, and business scalability to improve in this area.

Resilience and our values

I feel the connection between resilience and our values and purpose is strong, and it's worth getting clear about it. Being resilient is obviously critical to being a long-term, generational organization (i.e., our sustainability value), but I also see a big connection between our resilience and our confidence in the business. The more we see our resilience in action, the more we appreciate our ability to, for example, thrive in difficult markets. This appreciation leads to confidence, which has an impact on all sorts of workplace health elements.

If we increase our general understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and the measures we have to take to maintain business continuity, we can expect the ups and downs of business life in this new economy will have less of a dramatic impact on the confidence and passion of all of us at Habanero. This, of course, means that increasing our resilience stabilizes the negative emotional response we have to challenges and therefore increases our ability to live our harmony value. I guess I'm arguing here that resilience has a cultural or even emotional side to it — it's not just about business systems.

We could also talk about the connection between resilience and our ability to stay in the sweet spot between client, employee, and company needs (value-focused value) as well as the connection to our ability to walk the talk and build trusted advisor relationships (integrity value), but you get the picture.

Building the vibrant community

We could easily talk about all this resilience business as strategies that are aimed at making us a more sustainable organization. That would fit perfectly well, so why introduce another term here at Habanero? I feel it's important for us to understand that this is a specific area of skill and fitness we need to be aware of and on top of. Like summer riding, hot markets — markets where almost any company can find ways to be successful — are the times when companies can get weak and lose their edge when it comes to facing adversity.

By raising the profile and appreciation of our resilience, we will not only be more stable when the going gets rough (and icy), but how we react will feel more natural and connected to our values. Getting comfortable with ice and snow has allowed me to get beyond the anxiety of winter riding so I can experience the joy of being on my bike. We should expect the same results from our efforts to build resilience in business.