A couple of weeks ago I did a little rant on Facebook. This particular diatribe came about as a result of watching too many economists with too many differing points of view on that good old curse of mankind, CNN. The rant itself was more a couple of aspirins for the headache I got listening to all this nonsense.
“ There are a lot of people in business out there sitting on their hands right now because they are letting politics and the media control their lives and the future of their businesses…and they may not even know it.
Don’t be a victim. Our capitalist system didn’t get built by self-serving politicians or talking heads on TV. It got built and will continue to grow because entrepreneurial thinkers and doers did not let themselves be stymied by fear mongering political bullshit. They created a market and they made it grow. And you know what…nothing’s really changed much in that regard since the early days of capitalism.
Try watching less news and you might find yourself being less timid about pursuing your dreams or pushing your company against the grain in a tight economy. The ideas you have and the products and services you create are what make this society go. They’re what keep people employed, and growing the economy with their spending power. As you can see, this has very little to do with politics or the media. My theory is that the more you ignore these blights, the freer you become. Like the Nike people say, just do it.”
An Object Lesson
Back in the early 1980s when I worked in the big advertising agency business, the agency I worked for, DMB&B, was one of the four or five Procter and Gamble agencies. When the recession hit, it would have been easy for Procter to just fold up into a cocoon for a while, lay off a bunch of people, cut a bunch of budgets and ride it out. But they didn’t get to be Procter and Gamble by pussyfooting around in any economy. Instead they made it abundantly clear to all their agencies that while they saw the economic downturn as a challenge, they also saw it as an opportunity to build brand awareness, by simply refusing to cut back their budgets. In hindsight, this was brilliant thinking for two reasons:
1. Because they knew their competitors were nowhere near as brave or secure as they were and so holding their budgets while their competitors decreased theirs, gave them a whole lot more presence in the marketplace.
2. This bravery or (or as Procter would put it, right minded business decision) was infectious. The agencies were grateful, highly incentivized and inspired by this and worked that much harder to make good things happen for their gutsy client. This lead to a lot of great advertising and promotions that gave the consumer the feeling that Procter was really on their side and doing their best help stretch their budgets.
Procter and Gamble didn’t fall for all the doom and gloom crap that gets thrown around in every recession. As a result, they came out the other end ahead as usual. And their competitors all came out with miles of ground to make up to win back confidence and rebuild market shares that had eroded.
Today, the situation is even worse. We have 24 hour a day purveyors of doom and gloom in the media. The nature of reporting has morphed into a fear promoting ‘reality show’ mentality. And we have politicians with severe partisan biases feeding the media sharks on a daily basis. The result is that a lot of small to medium sized businesses, which are really the lifeblood of the economy, are suffering from something akin to paralysis by analysis, (caused by fear and confusion) which leads me right back to the rant above.
We All Need To Keep Moving
The economy moves in cycles. It’s up and it’s down and it’s always moving in one direction or another. The smart companies are the ones who tend to make their own way, being aware of where the economy is, but not falling victim to the fear and confusion that a downturn can engender.
Pragmatically, not every company can afford to be as brave as Procter and Gamble. But then again, can any company really afford not to be brave in their own way? It’s a hell of a question and one that every business owner out there sitting on their hands right now should really be asking.
If you’re asking that question of yourself, let’s talk about forward motion.