While many indicators point to an improving economy, it’s far more difficult to attract clients now than it was a few years ago. Perhaps worse, many economists expect the job market to remain dismal for all of 2010 and maybe even longer. Credit is still hard to obtain and consumer confidence is far from robust.
When times are tough, the phones aren’t ringing so much and the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked. When business is difficult, it just isn’t fun anymore. That leads many to pull back and reduce their work intensity for fear that their efforts would end up being applied in vain.
That’s the wrong response to a challenging market. In times like these, smart professionals develop new products, become more innovative, embrace creativity and market themselves harder than ever.
If you’re not working on as many deals as you would like right now, use the extra time to sharpen your skills. Read business books and invite people you admire to lunch, so you can “pick their brains.” Perhaps you’ve been thinking of developing a new product. This is a great time to work on it. Use the down time to reexamine what you do. Try to see your career and your business from different angles in order to find more effective ways to accomplish your mission.
A long time ago, the great businessman Henry Ford visited a beef packing plant in Chicago. Ford took great interest in the way workers processed the beef from whole carcasses into small cuts of ready-to-sell meat. As he observed, it occurred to Ford that if the process was reversed, all the cuts would go back together to form a whole steer carcass again. The metaphorical light bulb switched on in Ford’s head. “I can build automobiles this way,” he thought. Ford returned home to Detroit and promptly created the famous assembly line.
What can you learn from the methods other professionals use in their industries?
A recession is no time to stop marketing. History shows that those companies and professionals that stay in front of their clients are the ones that prosper when good times return.
During the 1920’s, Ford was selling 10 vehicles for every one sold by Chevrolet. After the Great Depression, Chevy held the sales lead. Why? Marketing. Chevy didn’t let up during the bad economy. The same thing occurred in other industries. Before the Depression, C.W. Post dominated the breakfast cereal market. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg was number one.
Never let down times or any self doubt cause you to slow your efforts to foster relationships, build your brand and acquire new clients.
Yes, times are tough, but business is cyclical. If you think about it, a recession is a precious period of time when viewed in the context of your entire career. If business was always raging at top speed, when would we have the chance to reinvent?
So, if you haven’t started your recession-time self-improvement work, you need to get going. There might not be much time to finish it before things start booming again.