Recently a supplier called me and demanded that I pay my account immediately or they would be taking legal action. I was surprised as the account wasn't that overdue, perhaps a few weeks. And the supplier was a company I had been dealing with for almost fifteen years. I had put hundreds of thousands of dollars through their business and I had always paid their bills, albeit not always on time. We'd had a good relationship so I was shocked and upset when this demand arrived out of the blue.

Anyway, I paid the account and the next surprise was a call from the owner of the business ringing to apologize for the way they had demanded payment. He said they were struggling to get money in and they had decided to get tougher on their customers. Hence they were chasing all their outstanding accounts much more aggressively.

Now, while I can completely understand their position, this was not the time to be alienating good customers by panicking. It was not the time to be introducing blanket policies that didn't take customer history into consideration.

Of course be cautious and wary if you are worried, but beware of panic-induced reactions. I have seen many people lose customers because of their own actions not because of the issues they were actually worried about in the first place--and which they would still have to deal with if they came to fruition.

That said, it is really easy to be filled with fear when there are big changes looming that could have a terrible effect on your business. It is scary worrying about what we will do if our business income drops by 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 per cent. How will we service our loans, pay our staff, pay ourselves? But worrying about what could happen and panicking about it will do nothing to improve the situation.

By all means have a 'moment' and the occasional freak out behind closed doors, but your business needs you to have a clear head and for you to take positive, well-considered action. Also this is a time when staff need a strong leader. If the boss is panicking, the staff will panic and it won't take long for the situation to spiral out of control.

A client of mine had to reduce his company's debt by ten million dollars per month for eight months in a row. He had to lay off many members of staff and his company was in the media almost daily with talk of their impending doom. When I asked him how he coped through this incredibly stressful time, he smiled and said, 'I just lined up the challenges and dealt with them one at a time.'

This is a simple philosophy but a very good one. Trying to work through a problem as a whole can be absolutely overwhelming. You can't solve every issue at once. So break the problem down into manageable chunks, which can be dealt with one at a time.