Somebody’s Gonna Win…Why Not You?

Posted by:

Every college or university has its share of freshman-level courses. You know, the huge “intro” courses that start out with 300 or so students—and end with maybe 100? Most of the students who drop these courses do so for one of two reasons:

  1. they find the course material stultifyingly dull, or
  2. they find the course material inordinately difficult.

That’s the way it should be. These courses are designed to “weed out” the serious students (in that field, at least) from the dabblers, the dilettantes. Not everybody who attempts a particular endeavor is going to be a success. And that’s why I think this crappy economy could be the best thing that’s ever happened to your business.

Look, it’s easy to be successful in boom times. A great economy is like the beginning of the college year: everybody gets into the class, everybody gets to play. “You want to take Intro to Physics? Come on in!” “You want a job? We’ll hire you!” “You want to start a business? We’ll lend you the money!” And customers? Customers are all around! Everybody’s got money to spend! You don’t even have to be particularly good at what you do—somebody will hire you!

But when things get tougher—as the college year progresses, as the economy falters—it gets a little more difficult. The merely curious drop out of the race, leaving those with talent and ambition to continue.

When the Beatles started out, there were over 300 other rock and roll bands in their hometown of Liverpool. It was fun, it was easy, the stakes were low, and anybody with a guitar could join a band. But as time went on, the stakes became higher. The public became more discerning. A lot of “weekend” bands broke up, the individual members moving on to lives as factory workers, shop owners, doctors. The talented and ambitious bands stayed in the game—but only because they were good enough to survive. And of those survivors, only a select few every really “made it.” And of those that made it, only one was the Beatles.

Why is this good news? Because it means that in times like these, some of your competition is going to fall by the wayside. Your industry will no doubt get smaller. Who’s going to survive? Those with talent and ambition. Those who see the challenges as opportunities.

I just read an article in The New Yorker which states that in virtually every case, the companies that come out ahead in a recession are those that increased (or, at the very least, didn’t decrease) their spending on acquisitions, advertising, and research and development. Most companies react to hard times by becoming a turtle, hiding inside their shell until things look better. Meanwhile, their more ambitious competitors are out there eating up market share. Before the Great Depression, Kellogg and Post were pretty much equal. Then the Depression hit. Post reacted like most companies today: it cut back on expenses and cut back on advertising. Kellogg, on the other hand, doubled its ad budget. The result? Even in the middle of the Depression, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty percent, and it became the dominant player in the cereal industry—a position it maintains today.

Some of you will say, “Bill, you’re oversimplifying the whole thing.” Yes I am. I know it’s complicated, and that, even with talent and ambition, not everybody is going to make it. Good people are losing their jobs every day. That’s the unfortunate reality. But, in general, the first ones to go are the more expendable ones. The first businesses to go under are the expendable ones—the ones that didn’t set themselves apart and become an invaluable resource to their customers.

So ask yourself this question today: “How can I, and my business, use this economy as an opportunity for growth?” What can you do that will make you stand out from the competition in your customers’ eyes? How can you become that invaluable resource? Because after all, no matter how bad things get, there will always be survivors. There will always be some who emerge from tough economic times stronger than ever. In short, somebody’s gonna win…why not you?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
  Related Posts