The excitement of an economic boom is intoxicating.
I lived and worked in Silicon Valley right in the middle of the "web crack" growth period. There was a buzz in the air that lifted everyone’s feet a few inches off the ground. People were meeting and pitching and partnering and hiring and planning on taking over the world. Consulting work was abundant, and projects always grew in scope. Engineers straight out of college got BMWs as signing bonuses.
Then, the crash.
Bravado turned to desperation. Buildings were shuttered, cars were repossessed, up-and-coming engineers moved back in with their parents.
If I see one more news story about the rising price of gas, I am going to throw my television out of the window.
Things are tough right now, that is for sure.
BUT WE ARE NOT DEAD!
Every economic downturn has tremendous potential for the few smart people who choose to see it as an opportunity to shake things up.
If you are a business owner, this is what you should do right now:
- Make your customers feel better and safer. No matter the market or industry, people are skittish. How can you bring a feeling of safety, comfort and security to every interaction with your customers?
- If you have a cafe, clean up and make things cozy. Turn the chairs towards each other. Invite great speakers and musicians to come in for special events. Play good music. Provide great reading material. Connect people with each other.
- If you are a financial planner, stop harping on retirement and start helping your clients ease their money pressures today. Be positive and encouraging. The news covers gloom and doom exceptionally well, so give people hope!
- If you are a coach, help your clients get in touch with their inner strength and sense of humor.
- You know those people in your life you call when you have a crisis? Be that person. Let your empathy, clear mind and optimistic attitude be your customer’s rock.
- Find new ways to squeeze blood out of a turnip. You may not have needed to look at the economics of your life or business while things were good. Now that they are tight, find any way to prune, cut or reduce unnecessary expenses. Examine your business processes and cut anything extraneous. You might look to outsource certain tasks (which costs money) so that you can totally focus your energy on strategic efforts (like working with more clients, finishing projects, speaking and marketing, which will more than pay for your outsourced efforts) Seth Godin suggests only investing in things that will increase in value: your business, your house, your education.
- Rethink your market. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we are experiencing our own economic nightmare in the real estate industry. Many formerly successful agents are in panic mode, desperately trying to sell homes in a spiraling market. But a few smart ones retooled their businesses to help people manage the foreclosure process on their homes. They are taking their knowledge of the market and customers to provide a useful service.
How do you find your new markets? Ask the following questions:
- What is happening in my industry? (businesses are consolidating, individuals have less discretionary income, gas prices are driving product costs through the roof, etc.)
- Which problems do these changes create? (business launches are delayed, capital spending is curtailed, credit scores fall with late payments, etc.)
- How can I use my skills to provide a solution to these problems? (instead of helping people leave jobs today, help them learn as much as they can in current job; instead of helping them buy new computers and servers, teach them how to get most out of what they have; instead of selling costly in-person events, create useful, cheaper virtual events that don’t require travel,etc.)
- Show customers the quickest path to money.
- If you are a VA or copyrighting type that works with service professionals, do you know that thousands of them have e-books or audio products or workshop ideas that are 80% done, sitting in a folder on a hard drive somewhere gathering electronic dust? If you know how to finish and launch a project, create a "we get it done and out the door!" program. Most people get stuck in the last 5% of the project (setting up the shopping cart and sales page, formatting the ebook, etc.), so help them complete things in the quickest way possible.
- Reduce/reuse/recycle. Many people think they need to create totally new material all the time for products or services. You don’t! Help your client create a killer workshop out of a great series of blog posts. Turn a popular series of podcasts into an audio product. Use your imagination — how can you repackage what you already have and sell it?
- Find complementary partners
Almost everyone is feeling the pinch drumming up business alone. But what if you looked for partners that bring complimentary services to your business? The example that jumped to mind is personal organizers teaming with eBay experts. You could come up with a package to guarantee that you can cover the cost of your services (and more) by not only clearing out junk, but reselling it to the right places.
- Monetize the little things
Are you like me and recommend the same people and services over and
over? I have gotten really lazy with affiliate links since I don’t
want to appear greedy or self-interested. Really, I am being silly by
leaving perfectly good diaper money on the table. Here is a guideline
- Only promote really great products and services you believe in. If you don’t believe in them, don’t promote them.
- If you use affiliate links, let people know.
- Done – conflict of interest solved. If anyone disagrees, ask them
to kindly buy your diapers (or toner cartridges or whatever you spend
your money on) for you.
- Do what you are meant to do
JK Rowling gave a wonderful address
to Harvard graduates last week where she spoke of failure and
imagination. Describing the place from which she wrote Harry Potter,
"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure
meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to
myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct
all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I
really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the
determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.
I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and
I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had
an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid
foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
- SAY SOMETHING AND MEAN IT!
The time for a safe and boring brand is gone. If you whither up and
shrink as the market gets scared, kiss off your business.
Instead, do what marketing freight train Peter Shankman is doing to the
PR peers in his market — kicking their ass! His Help a Reporter service is powered by the most basic technology: an aweber
mailing list service and a web page with a form. With these simple tools and a gigantic personality, he is connecting with top media organizations and providing a very useful service. He is leading his market, and
having fun doing it.
I can’t be the only one sick of cowering in the shadow of terrible news. What are your ideas for blasting through this crisis/opportunity?
I could use a complimentary partner.
“Partner, you look nice today”.
“Thank you, complimentary partner!”
A complementary partner, on the other hand, would be useful for bringing complementary services to my business.
Thanks for the comment, although I think you could have gotten the point across sans snark.
But maybe I am just crabby because it is Friday and I am tired.
I’ll fix it — thanks for looking out.
Many of us agree with you and are so happy you stated it.
Every period of history has had some ups and downs, as well as some folks who failed and some who succeeded.
The constant dwelling on gas prices, house foreclosures, etc. not only distract us from the positive solutions we could implement in our businesses, but in our personal lives as well.
Rowlings’ Harvard commencement speech was not only powerful because she pointed out how with failure as her foundation she rebuilt her life, but also because she announced that there is an expiration date on blaming your parents.
Dwelling in doom and gloom is an excuse for not taking positive action and making wise choices. God knows that many Americans need to cut back on the intake of food, the use of energy and the purchase of gadgets anyway.
Our human capacity to take for granted what not too long ago we craved has caused us to never be satisfied.
There is no price on what we really need to lead happy and satisfying lives: good relationships, communing with nature and embracing spirituality. The more we reach for these timeless sources of joy, the more we will accept the ups and downs as life’s ebb and flow.
The first thing I´ve done to blast through this is cancel cable tv. It´s just too much of a distraction. The second, is to finally be determined, like Mario says, about something I´m passionate about. I´ve put into practice what Hugh Macleod (www.gapingvoid.com) calls ¨The sex and cash theory¨).
I´ve started to put into t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs… ideas I think are important for times like this. I really believe that we can change the World by starting intelligent conversations, so I´ve finally put myself to help these happen. From my blog to a store in cafepress.com. Yeih! Hopefully this ¨small approach to the big picture¨ (with ideas like ¨who do YOU inspire?¨or ¨World peace begins in your mind¨) will help other people in these times.
Loved the post, Pam! Just the inspiration that many of us needed! I think it’s really important for people to remember that there will ALWAYS be ebbs and flows in business and in life. It’s how we face those times that will determine our ultimate success.
One thing that is essential to being successful is to identify your mission and then stick to it. Wars have been lost because the Generals were wishy-washy concerning the mission.
To illustrate my point, I am going to use gasoline.
If we are going to take the position that petroleum consumption is bad – then we should make the importing of petroleum even more expensive than it already is – AND we should oppose drilling anywhere in the world.
But if we are going to take the position that we need to lower the price of gasoline in order than we can afford to consume more, then we need to drill in ANWAR, drill off-shore and drill for shale oil deposits.
Our problem is that we want it both ways. We want to fuel our own vehicle w/o paying through the nose, we want to drill in someone else’s backyard AND at the same time we want to discourage everyone else from putting gas in their own cars and prevent anyone from drilling in our back yard.
Now, the above is intended as an illustration of my main point. Decide what your mission is, commit to it and execute even if it means that the cost is higher than you expected.
Inspiring post to read on Friday, June xx!
It is too easy to get down, but today is another day to make something happen!
Pam…your posts continue to amaze me. Your “glass-half-full” attitude always inspires me. THANK YOU!
Thanks for the kick in the pants! It helps to be reminded that the only thing we can really control is our attitude.
Love it, P!
Downturn shmownturn, find the opportunity. Maybe it’s the excuse to devote the time to do what you do better. Maybe it’s the justification to finally explore alternative or collateral markets. Maybe, as JK Rowling said, it’s the moment of freedom to finally get the hell out of dodge and pour your heart into what you were meant to do.
The best marketers, especially direct and internet marketers have always said the biggest opportunity lies at the point of your markets’ greatest pain.
In an up economy, it’s easy to get by without ever finding or serving that point. In a down economy,though, it’s mission critical. So, look for where the economy may be making it hurt the most, brainstorm like never before to create a solution, then heal the pain.
A super post!
A very optimistic approach. I enjoyed the post!
Thanks everyone for your comments!
I got kind of worked up about this yesterday, even though I was supposed to be writing something else. I am glad it struck a chord!
I do not do well with continual bad news … what purpose does it serve but to paralyze us all?
I think you can be an optimistic realist.
Go get em!
Go Pam! Go Pam! It’s your birthday…well, not really.
But jeez Sis, this is GREAT stuff! It can get anyone out of a slump.
This is an excellent post. Rowlings’s comments are also spot on. We all need to embrace what we enjoy and follow that wherever it leads. In crises there are always opportunities. Positive attitude and ignoring the constant gloom and doom from the media is critically important. Good morale is fundamental to success.
Personally I’m also getting sick of all the stories of economic doom and gloom (especially in cnn.com).
Warren Buffet once said: I get greedy when other people panic and panic when other people get greedy. I’d rather take advice from him (and from you) than from the drive-by media.
A lot of people whine about how expensive things are and don’t realize that they’ve been wasting money on crap for years and feeling entitled to having it all.
As you say, this is not a time to whine or panic. It’s time to get to work, to become smarter, more efficient and more determined. Thanks for the nudge. We needed it.
Amen Pam! One thing I see clients fail to do regardless of the current economic climate is to really drill down into their existing customer base to uncover more value and revenues. Like you say… You’ve got to squeeze more blood from that turnip.
Some types of businesses traditionally do well in a downturn, which makes sense: Career counselors do well. People teaching job-related skills (e.g., ESL) do well. People stop eating out so much at $10 lunch places, but they replace vacations with dinners out at $40 dinner places – so those mid-level restaurants do well. When people first lose their jobs, many indulge in “me time” and hire personal trainers and massage therapists to “detox.” I think most business owners/solos can find something that people need MORE when the economy is down.
Downturns are exactly when you should double down (in smart ways of course). The tech bubble pop shook out all the BS artists. Meanwhile the people who actually love tech worked through the pain to build Web 2.0. The human capital didn’t go anywhere, just the stupid-inducing frenzy.
This is what Homer calls a “crisi-tunity”.