Sunday, June 22, 2008

Use the Recession, Gain an Advantage

Some time ago, I read the dip, by Seth Godin. Recently, during conversation, a friend suggested that I revisit the book. So, I picked up my copy and started reading parts of it again. I found much of it seemed new to me and far more relevant than it had before.

the dip is about knowing the difference between when to ride out the low points (the dip) and keep working toward your goal and when you're in what Godin calls a "Cul-e-Sac" (a place where you're stuck and no matter what you do, you can't improve your state). During a recession, many people begin to jump ship. Businesses begin to suffer from fewer sales, less production, fewer shipments, less foot traffic, etc. The affect is a hit to the bottom-line. Many businesses close up shop.

However, the dip is a time when businesses should get creative and look for opportunities. A time when leaders, managers, supervisors or business owners should take a deep breath and spend some time examining the ways in which they can create a more effective, focused, efficient, specialized business, department or team. Too often, we try to increase revenues by spreading ourselves and our teams too thin. We try to cover too much or too many markets.

If instead, we were to focus our energies on fewer tasks, products, customer segments or markets, the concerted effort and focus would have a greater impact. Therefore, it would more likely have a more beneficial result. It's the dispersed effort and the eventual quitting, that keeps us from being successful during a recession. Many successful businesses, unable or unwilling to push themselves through the dip, quit. Prior to the recession, those same businesses may have been close to realizing the level of success they were seeking.

Push yourself, your team or your business through the dip. Here are some ways to help you do that:

  • First be sure you are in a dip and not a Cul-de-Sac. If there is no possible way to improve the situation, it's time to quit and move on. Quitting is not failure. Quitting allows you to redirect your resources (time, energy, money, ideas, people). Quit products, services or features. Don't quit markets, strategies or a niche.
  • Look at your organization, department or team. How are you managing your resources (people, dollars, time, etc.)? To push through the dip, you'll need to examine your resources and be sure they aren't spread too thin or underutilized. Review your team and be sure you're effectively using their talents, skills and interests. There may be diamonds in the rough. Pluck them out, polish them and let them sparkle.
  • Use the slow times to work on being better, faster, smarter, leaner or more specialized than your competitors.
  • Market better. During a recession many organizations cut their marketing budgets. While they're cutting, you fill the marketing gaps their cuts have left behind. Your name will be seen more times and make more impressions than the competition.
  • Since 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of the market. Determine who your 20% are and focus your resources on them.

Pushing through the dip makes you, your team and your organization stronger, wiser, quicker, resilient and confident you can do it again (if necessary).

Kennette Reed

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What's Wrong With Hope?

Throughout most of the past nine months, we've heard a lot about hope. From Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" to both Democratic Presidential candidates inclusion of "Change" in their campaign slogans, to the popularity of Joel Osteen. However, despite the many voices of encouragement and visions of a better and brighter future, there are probably just as many voices shouting words of skepticism, discouragement and heresy.

Why do people feel offering "Hope" to those who may have previously had none is "false hope"? If you encourage others to imagine a future which includes what they wish for and dream of, is this wrong? If I have the "audacity" to hope for more than what is, to dream of all that could be or to envision what has never been, what's wrong with that? What's wrong with believing turning hope into reality is possible and working to make it so?

"Hope" is what encouraged Europeans to make the journey to The New World. "Hope" is what kept Africans believing they'd one day be able to escape the inhumane treatment of slavery. An end to military conflicts, a chief executive with concern for the "everyday person", job security and better education are what many voters "Hope" for. Yet, there are the naysayers who issue their discouragements with statements like, "Be realistic" or "You can't have change for change's sake".

There's much that is broken and needs to be fixed. There's much that isn't broken, but should be fixed anyway. There's also much that is great and wonderful. Here's the thing. We'll never know how much we are capable of or how great we can be until we stretch beyond what's comfortable. As individuals, as families, as organizations, as Americans, let's become more hopeful and look for ways to go beyond where we are. Let's imagine who and what we can be. Let's "Hope" for the opportunity to keep growing and learning everyday.

May all your todays and tomorrows be filled with "Hope".

Kennette Reed