There is good news and bad news. Let's start with the bad. We have until April 1, 2010 before the market begins the long process of a rebound to better days. No one wants to hear that, but let's face reality. We are in the worst economic slump, the worst real estate slump, the worst banking and mortgage slump, the worst automobile slump, the worst manufacturing slump, . . . need I go on? The list is very lengthy. But the slump is not just a little corner of the United States, or even a little corner of the world. This is a world wide disaster of major proportions. Every day the news headlines are not just peppered with a couple of corporate challenges, they are full of dozens of disastrous corporate reports of bankruptcies and other leading indications of a depression. Federal, State, County, and City governments are under extreme financial stress, too. Some think the stock market is perking back up, but the stock market has shown an uncanny ability to bounce up and down on political news with total disregard for fundamentals.
Okay, that's the bad news. We all know about the bad news. What's the good news?
The good news is that there will be an end to the chaos, and in my opinion that end will come on or about April 1, 2010. This is not good news just because there will be an end to the chaos, but because it helps us put our current business practices and our lives in perspective and to plan accordingly. If there are this many days left until we once again feel the warmth of sun upon our faces, and the economy shows signs of long term balance and growth, we know that we must plan for a long winter.
A foolish man does not plan ahead, even when the signs of the times are upon him. He will spend foolishly, hoping upon hope that somehow customers will buy his product and he will have the money he needs to make it through the long dark winter. He wastes essential cash reserves on old fashioned advertising that is both expensive and ineffective, because he has not been paying attention to moves in the market. He has not considered the dramatic shifts in consumer preferences and how they shop for and buy products. Such a man has not invested his time or his money in developing new products that will meet his customers' changing needs and desires, and just as important, this man has given little thought to the extraordinary tectonic shifts in marketing and selling that have been happening on the Internet. (We could also insert "board" or "CEO" for "man.") The foolish man is most often an arrogant man who stopped learning long ago.
The wise man, suspecting that the winter may be a long one, will be circumspect in how he exhausts his resources of time and money. He will seek to adjust his product lineup to meet the demand as it exists, not as he wishes it would be. He will pursue methodologies that will reach potential customers in the most powerful and cost-effective ways. The wise man knows he does not know everything, so he will surround himself with wise counselors who can help him. He will develop a strong network and affiliations that are mutually beneficial. He will stop wasting his time on defunct concepts pushed by those on a salary who have never actually been in business for themselves. The wise man has been learning in preparation for such times, so his mind is capable of being stretched and challenged. The wise man is a humble man who constantly seeks to learn and grow.
The foolish man will risk everything upon his expectations, and disillusionment will occur if those expectations are not met. The wise man plans and prepares for the worse, but hopes for the best. It is not the worse case scenario, but it is realistic to expect that our economy and consumer purchasing power will not begin to return with any strength for the long term until April 1st of 2010. (Is it just a coincidence that April 1st of 2010 will be April Fool's Day?)
Does this mean we crawl into a cave and wait until then? By no means. We are living in challenging times, but we are also living in times of great opportunity. That may be obvious to those who are serious about investing in real estate with prices down so far and the inventory so high. But opportunities are going to present themselves in almost every industry right now, and where one door is closed, another door will open. Creativity, open-mindedness, enthusiasm, and hard work are the American ideals that will be the driving forces for the successful business owner between now and the spring of 2010.
What can a business do today? If you lack customers, market, market, market. Reach out to potential customers wherever they might be. Work on refining your product or service. Glean new ways to connect with customers or clients. Figure out how to leave your competition behind while they wallow in the mud. Be excited, because when the market comes back, you'll be ready, willing, and able to meet the demand that you are preparing for now. That's what I'm doing. It gets me up early in the morning and keeps me up late. How about you? What drives you in these difficult times? If you face the challenges with vigor, you may yet succeed, but if you crawl into a cave, you are guaranteed to fail.