Motivational speaker Barlow told delegates at the conference in Cirencester: "What you focus on becomes what happens. So if you focus on cost-cutting, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
He went on to give examples of "winners in turbulent times", such as airline Flybe, which announced record profits two months before Christmas.
Barlow said the company built its business model so that it could make decisions fast - and he told garden centre owners that they can do this too, by bringing in and taking out products.
He said Warner Brothers sold a record number of CDs last year despite a declining market because it sent out more talent scouts and "focused on developing a more intimate relationship with customers".
He added: "Some garden centres are fantastic at this and some are not. The world is not coming to and end next week. All is not lost. There are winners."
Other examples he gave included the "cut the crap committee", designed to listen to the people in their business.
Barlow also noted work done by Korean Air, which found that most accidents happened because the co-pilot would not challenge the pilot even if they were going to fly into a mountain. He said that this culture had to change in business.