What’s interesting to me is that when times are tough, when there’s an issue with the economy, some businesses do really well and some do not — and these are businesses in the same industry. For many, the economy is like pizza: When it’s good, it’s really good, and even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
What I see making a big difference are attitude and belief. If you’re walking around thinking things are tough, that’s the mind-set you have. What you focus your attention on is what your life looks like. It’s the vibe people get from you. It’s going to be the way you present things.
Attitude and belief can help you through a tough time, but not by flat-out ignoring difficult circumstances or willing them to magically disappear. You have to first recognize that tough times are temporary and then work quickly to address the needs that arise during difficult conditions. Don’t let the media tell you what your life looks like; remember that good news does not sell newspapers. Have you ever noticed that really depressing news stories are often followed by Prozac commercials?
Most companies — and most people — that succeed when times are tough make sure they get more focused on the needs of the customer in the moment. To succeed, we can’t be stuck in the long-term needs we’ve identified over the years. That’s probably not where the customer’s head is right now. You’ve got to sharpen your focus on what’s really important to customers here and now. If your customer is treading water (which is nothing more than controlled drowning), throw him a life preserver. You can teach him to swim later. Once you’re past the crisis, there’s always time to get customers back on track with what you know will benefit them long-term.
People and companies that are really successful during times of transition often have to work a little harder, investing more thought, more time and even more money to do as well as they did before. But even though they expend more resources to perform as well as last year, they’re not losing ground in a companywide shake-up or industrywide slump. Odds are, they’re still moving forward. When business picks up again, they will have cemented their usefulness to employers and customers and can resume a better version of “business as usual.”