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Keeping on Track During Tough Times

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on November 12, 2008

In times of economic uncertainty, it can be tempting to become protective, and to expend your energy speculating about what this means for your business, or whether in fact you can expect to grow at all during this time.

Fear is a very real emotion, yet it can immobilize your business and your career. It can help to acknowledge that nobody (including the experts) knows exactly what’s going to happen, so you are not alone. When the environment becomes challenging, it is actually an opportune time to think about ways to reinvent your business—to change what might have worked yesterday but may not work tomorrow. Case in point: Psychologists tell us that when economic times get tough, people rein in spending, but still splurge on the occasional luxury.

What does this suggest for your business? If you sell to consumers, what might they be willing to give up, and what might they still need or desire that you can provide? If you sell to other businesses, what problems will they still have that you can resolve for them? What is most pressing to your clients, and what is less urgent?

Such strategic prioritizing can go a long way to help you plan and manage the current crisis. As you conserve your own resources, this approach will help you identify where you can focus your marketing and sales efforts for the next three to 12 months. Just as you want to avoid the do-nothing pitfall, avoid the crisis management trap of becoming a moving-target organization where panic dictates changing objectives every week. Instead, analyze as best you can with the limited information available today, pick a direction, and move forward—correcting as you go along and the feedback comes your way. As Will Rogers said, "Even if you get on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there."

Lisa Gundry, PhD
Professor of Management
Director, Center for Creativity & Innovation
DePaul University

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