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October 8, 2008

Branwashed Believers

Its hard not to be startled by the economic calamities that are emerging every day. Tom Peters has a recent post  on this subject, stating that we are all talking ourselves into a recession (or even a depression).

I tend to agree with him, there is a lot that can be said about negative thinking and, in the words of Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or you can't you're right."

However, I think the current situation is probably a little out of the boundaries of mere positive thinking . I'm not a follower generally. I don't really care what the crowd is doing, in fact recent history tells me that governments and financial institutions are often wrong. (If they weren't we wouldn't all be in this mess now would we)

I look to (normally) one or two expert opinions per subject to inform my thinking. And this is what is concerning me, particularly after listening to a recent statement by Paul Keating, the ex-Prime Minister of Australia and a person I consider to be an economic visionary.

Mr Keating was drawing parallels between the current situation and the economic recession of the 1990's when he said  "That's not what we had in 1990. We had a world recession in 1990, it was a business recession, that means business investment fell. What we have here is the advanced disintegration of the international financial system." 

But the old bromide "Think Positive" is I find often a statement to hide a lack of experience, or to shift the blame for something onto somebody else. "We did everything right, the project manager just wasn't positive enough. That's why we failed". Platitudinous, delusional garbage. 

We need to be careful not to brainwash ourselves into thinking we can easily ride this one out, nor can we paralyze ourselves through fear of what might be around the corner. 

No, the answer my friends is to be realistic. This is bad, very bad. And things are probably going to get worse over the short to mid term. Credit will continue to dry up, over extended companies will continue to reel from the impacts of this ruinous situation, and markets (probably even yours) will start to shrink. 
But so what? We all know that consulting is not a eleemosynary activity. You get money if you provide value, not because you are well mannered or have a nice smile. 

So now is the time to work harder than ever before. Unless you worked for or consulted to one of the departed companies, then things are probably not right at your doorstep right now. Take charge then and act before you are forced to react

Sell, sell, sell - Get the pipeline filled as quickly as possible. Start scouting for new orders TODAY  and work hard on turning down your time to conversion. 

Network beyond belief - Start getting out and forming relationships that you can develop commercially over the medium to long term. people wont buy from people they like, they buy from people they trust. (Zig Ziglar )

What are people still doing? - Financial retail advice, self help and motivational work, cost cutting, housing sales and marketing, utility companies, infrastructure organizations, charities and non-profits, commodity producers (Mining, Oil and Gas, Chemicals), niche technologies. 

These are all examples of markets and sectors that are not suddenly going to stop. They may slow in some cases, but that doesn't mean they don't want help. They just might need a different type of help. (From growth to cost reduction say)

Review the sales plans - What are your marketing and sales plans? Do they need to be redirected? Or does the messaging need to change? Here's a thought. As booms turn to busts then people start to fear for their own security. Often needlessly, but it is a real dynamic. So how can this help you? Start promoting your courses as career development as well as company value adding. 

Look for alternative sources of funds - Banks are falling over and the well is drying up for now. Okay, great. They aren't the only institutions with money, they are just the ones whose business model involves actively lending it out. A lot of private money, from my recent discussions, are seeing opportunities all over the place in the current market. If you need funds then think about how you can get into this circuit, and turn a downturn into the start of your phenomenal growth curve. 

Value, value, value - Do your services and products deliver value? Are you able to easily claim this? Are there people who will support that track record? And do you have the relationships to take advantage of all of this? Is your value the right message for the times?

We need to be brutally realistic about where we are today. We cannot allow ourselves to be brainwashed into the luxury of if you think positively it will all go away; nor can we allow noise of the maddening crowds to paralyze us with fear. Work hard, work smart, and sow the seeds of your success today.