Every so often, a new cycle of commercials emerges that turn the wisdom of great men and women into catchphrases pitching the latest and greatest “insert product here.” Most make a brief splash and disappear into the ether, but a few resonate well enough to leave their mark well into the future.

One of my favorites, a lesser-known gem from Thomas Edison, always seems relevant no matter the time, place or topic:

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”

There’s a general desire, I think, to define success as “overnight.” And why not? After all, the home run blasted over the left field fence in the ninth inning to win the game is much more exciting than the eight innings of small ball that put the team in position to win in the first place.

The last few years have seen a paradigm shift in how businesses operate in every service industry. Mergers, bankruptcies, rising prices, falling bids and the always popular “contract renegotiation” have all taken their toll, and once-swollen ranks have been dramatically cut back from their peaks.

It’s from the survivors, then, that some of the best lessons can be learned. Those companies still in operation today have weathered what most economists say is the worst of the storm not through luck or happenstance or – at least in most cases – a seemingly endless stash of cash, but through their own clear-eyed vision of the reality of what was happening around them, the foresight to see what was coming down the pike…and a staunch, unblinking refusal to accept it as inevitable.

The hard choice is usually the right choice is another favorite, but one that needs context.

It’s the easiest thing in the world break down the financial health of a company that’s been running on life support and, with a few quick slashes of the pen, bring it back to life.

What the numbers don’t reflect are the hundreds of hours spent sitting next to someone in a truck on the way to the next job; the jokes and ribbing over quick lunches choked down between appointments; the weekend BBQs so the families can get together and catch up on the little things; the arguments, the laughter, the familiarity and camaraderie that comes from long hours in close quarters. It’s what you don’t find on the P&L that usually results in the sleepless nights, the ulcers, the tears and frustration.

Sure, the decisions are clear…when you’re pointing them out to someone else. It’s when they’re on you that the pit in your stomach drops into the abyss.

The hard choices are never easy, but being able to make them is more often than not the difference between success and failure. Taking a clear, objective look at your operation and evaluating its health – or lack thereof – doesn’t make you the most popular boss on the block. It is, however, what lets you take another step up the ladder to where you want to be.