Many of us remember how Hollywood icon John Wayne, regardless of the odds against him, rode tall in the saddle, faced his fears, and somehow always came out on top. The Duke once said that courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.

Jim Harris Today, our industry needs more Dukes, men and women who have the guts, backbone, bravery, and resolve to face an unrelenting down market with old-fashioned courage.

Those of us older than 40 have been here before. Yes, this one is different, yet we can apply many of the same lessons learned from previous negative market shifts within this environment. Here are four tough-times strategies we need to reapply.

First, tough times require finely honed skills. Now is the time, as management guru Steven Covey says, to "sharpen the saw," to grow more and new skills in yourself and in your team. With everyone needing today to "do more with less," now is the time to invest in upgrading the overall competence of you team. I see an increased interest with my best clients in teleseminars, Webinars, e-books, and other low-cost, cutting-edge approaches to improving skills. World-class companies sharpen skills during downturns.

Second, tough times require concise, crystal-clear thinking. There is no room for fuzzy logic, uncertainty, or unsubstantiated pie-in-the-sky initiatives. I personally use for my business a powerful, one-page business planning software program, and have facilitated for several clients a one-day planning session to help them craft their own one-page strategic plan. Simplify your strategy and your key action plans.

Third, tough times require realistic goals. The worst thing you can do to your sales staff right now is hold them to a commission structure or operations plan that you designed last year. Be willing to reset your goals on a quarterly or even monthly basis. Within our market, you must be willing to more frequently adjust your goals than during good times. Give everyone in your operation a fighting chance to reach a goal they can achieve, or risk losing their total motivation and commitment.

Fourth, tough times require maximum execution. You must constantly focus yourself and your team on the few critically important areas of your success, and relentlessly execute the basics. [trite. Es]Now more than ever, it is essential for you to tenaciously monitor the performance of every aspect of your yard.

Today, it takes true grit to invest in more training, backbone to redesign your strategy, bravery to adjust your goals, and resolve to drive even more front-line accountability for results. But without these, you'll soon be eating your competitors dust.

So even if you are shaking in your boots, with a little true grit, you'll soon be riding high just in the saddle. And when the market turns, you'll be in a better position to win.