Survival Strategies for Tough Times

by WOHe

I wasn’t born when the stock market crashed in 1929. I’m not old
enough to remember the day Pearl Harbor was hit. But I remember
when the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, when FDR died and the day
Kennedy was shot. The world changed each time. And now, it’s
changed again.’

I don’t know if the magnitude is greater than the monumental
days of Pearl Harbor or the bomb, but we all know where we were the
morning of September 11, and we will remember it forever. Business
stood still and, for a lot of businesses, it has taken a long time
to come back.’

Through these difficult times, there was one common denominator
the businesses that survived were never paralyzed by fear. They
simply shifted gears. They didn’t pull sheets over their heads,
waiting for things to get better, or put off making decisions, or
wait before re-grouping to handle difficult times. They re-worked
their action plans, prepared to change on a day-to-day basis, and
never let their confidence be shaken.

The time has come again to’not let the fear of recession,
stock market volatility or thoughts of business failure numb our
brains. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in the wake of
this kind of negative thinking.’

For the past few years, we’ve had a good economy, low
unemployment and a growing stock market. A ton of new homes were
started. People were expanding, remodeling and renovating their
homes. There was no end in sight to the upswing.’

Then, even before the terrorist attacks, our economic cycle
began a downturn. There was an undercurrent of uncertainty.
Everyone wanted to ask the same questions: “Have we hit bottom
yet?” “When will the economy get better?” “When will customers
start buying again?” Stocks began to slide, the economy softened
and the terrorist attacks happened.

Survival strategy
Stock analysts have told
us to have patience, economic gurus have encouraged us to hang in
there, and the President told us to go out and spend money that
things would get better. The people in the same roles decades ago
made the same statements when things were difficult, and they were
right.

They were right in the 1930s after the depression it just took a
little time. They were right in the ’40s; the war ended and our
nation started to roll again. In the ’70s, we had 20% interest
rates, long lines at the gas pumps and businesses falling by the
wayside. But things got better. Operators of stores, businesses and
dealerships thought they would never see another customer. There
were contractors who thought they would never build another
house.

For some kitchen and bath firms, sales have reached a low point,
and it might be an uphill battle for a while. Nobody knows what
next week, next month or next year is going to bring. Not everyone
is going to make it. But the businesses that hunker down, redouble
or retriple their efforts and are confident that the rewards will
significantly multiply when the bad times are over, will survive.
Kitchen and bath business firms and salespeople who put their head
in the sand and stop promoting, marketing and advertising may not
be around.’

It’s possible that restructuring might be in order for your
firm. Remember, restructuring is not just a euphemism for cutting
back on staff, or eliminating some expenses. If your business is to
stay alive, sometimes drastic actions have to be taken.

Taking no action at all could be very harmful to your company.
Think logically. Those who are cautiously optimistic while everyone
else is screaming “The sky is falling!” could reap the rewards in
the months and years to come.

I’ve seen many business owners and salespeople talented and
energetic individuals paralyzed by the events of September 11th, to
the point that they procrastinate or even completely avoid doing
things that would benefit them and their company. They can’t deal
with anything else while they are listening to all the prophets of
doom.

It’s in the attitude
Sure, things have
gotten tough. The country is in turmoil. The stock market is down.
But waiting until things get better could ensure failure.

There are opportunities afforded by any situation. It’s time to
seek them out. It’s time for you to stand out, while your
competitors curtail their activities because of the difficult
economic climate. Even a modest effort will be noticed while others
are doing nothing.

Abraham Lincoln said, “It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we
handle what happens to us that makes the difference.” Being
paralyzed by fear is not the answer. Fear is a mind-killer. Fear
can bring total obliteration.’

Now that the weeks have turned into months since the events of
September 11th, it appears that we are finally turning the corner.
America is spending again. The malls were crowded after
Thanks-giving. The “big-box” stores were packed with customers. The
specialty shops’ phones started to ring, and prospects came through
the door. The airlines increased their passenger count (and, of
course, their prices as well). The car dealers had some of the best
months ever. While zero-percent financing has had a big effect, the
bigger effect was in the minds of the customers little voices
saying that it was time to spend money again.’

And, in the heart of it all, people started to visit New York
City again; the shows at Radio City Music Hall sold out, and
Broadway came back to life (try getting a ticket to The Producers
and you’ll see what I mean). In Washington, DC, the museums and
monuments have once again become as much of an attraction to
curiosity-seekers as the Pentagon. Things are slowly coming
around.

It’s hard to have a smile on our faces when business starts to
soften. It’s even harder when a national tragedy occurs. But,
customers start to buy again. Housing starts to pick up, and
renovations increase. People start thinking about making their
homes more livable. They did after World War II, and after the
interest rates settled down and the gas lines got back to normal.
They will do it now. Just be sure that when they’re ready to
remodel or put in their new kitchen or bathroom, you’re there with
a decent inventory, an optimistic attitude and a smile even when it
hurts.

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