It's not the right time to shout about success but do show staff your confidence, says Sue Mountstevens

Q: My business is doing brilliantly, but I hardly dare brag about it in this present economic crisis. I would normally share the ups and downs of my company with my friends, but now I find that my ebullience is out of place. When I'm out with friends I am aware that there is some real grief about. What is the best way to handle this?

A: I suspect you're right. Your friends don't want to hear about your problems choosing the colour of your Ferrari or deciding where to take your next sun-soaked holiday, but the fact you are aware of the pain and grief this recession is causing many people shows you are not too thick-skinned.

Having a slightly gloomy air about your business may be no bad thing when negotiating with your customers and your suppliers.

The zeitgeist for the moment is not to punch the air when something goes right. I work with an outplacement agency that is doing excellent business at the moment, but the owner has learnt to put on a pained look whenever she is asked about the future.

However, when talking to your staff make sure you pass on your confidence. Celebrate small successes with your staff as often as possible in low-key ways. They need to believe they're part of a winning team as well.

And a final thought: why don't you check one more time with your accountant that your business is doing just as well as you think it is!

Q: We are a major supplier to the supermarkets. My line manager has suggested that following my success in finance I might like to build my career in category management and handling some key accounts. I'm delighted that I seem to be on the fast track, but the stories I've heard about supermarket buyers make me reluctant to move out of my comfort zone in finance. Any advice?

A: Your line manager not only sees you doing a good job, but I suspect he has already had a conversation with the sales team management - and frankly they seem to have more confidence in your skills than you do.

Buckle up and get in the hot seat. A few years in sales is the perfect complement to your financial training and the experience will equip you better than anything else to be a contender for senior management.

And by the way, I spend a lot of my time with supermarket buyers and they're no more frightening than financial directors.

If you have a question for Sue, email her at