Earlier this year I started to feel business slip and then I saw that word in the papers – RECESSION! Looking at my mortgage payment I took in a deep breath and thought about two restaurant owners, John and Bill. John goes to a hospitality conference. Bill can’t make it. A severe looking economist gets up to speak, ‘We’re heading into a deeper economic decline than the great depression.’
John is horrified, next day he fires three waiters, starts using cheap ingredients and stops his weekly advert.

End of the month Bill asks John, ‘How’s business?’
John replies, ‘You haven’t heard? Crap! We’re heading into a deeper economic decline than the great depression. You?’
‘Great,’ says Bill, ‘we seem to be the only ones advertising, customers tell us our service is the best and they don’t get quality like this anywhere.’

John’s response reminds us that recessions can become self-fulfilled prophesies. We expect the worst, stop taking positive action and lo and behold – look, the doomsayers were right, I’ve got no business! That’s not to say the recession is all in our heads, if you’re in business you may well be experiencing decreased demand, increased debt, and margins as tight as Bernie Madoff’s new sleeping quarters. But, you also probably have fewer viable competitors and if you look you’ll find investment bargains. One man’s problem is another’s opportunity, we realise the opportunity by adjusting our approach.

And so our story about John and Bill continues…

When John hears about how well Bill is doing by ignoring the doomsayers and just getting on with business, the light bulb goes on and he goes back to what he was doing before – he rehires, uses good ingredients and puts his advert back. But when Bill finds out that there is a recession he has a different revelation: he starts doing more. He launches karaoke on Tuesdays, speed dating on Thursdays and all-day takeaways. Next month Bill will start a 2nd restaurant, when a vacancy opens at John’s old place.

Recessions work when they inspire our innovation, when they move us to find new and better ways to do things. Bill Gates said, ‘The biggest impediment to progress is success.’ Success makes us complacent. Pain is there to motivate us to raise our game. That means doing more of the things that work: face-to-face meetings with qualified prospects, follow-up thank you gifts with requests for referrals, and growing relationships through association membership. But it also means trying new things like hand-written birthday cards, email newsletters or how about rewarding your team for coming up with winning ideas to reduce costs and increase profits. Some of those things may not work or work immediately, the important thing is to take action. Despondency is the death of action. If you’re feeling despondent it’s because you expect things to ‘just work’ but the reason you’re in business is because things, don’t ‘just work’ they require people like you to solve problems.

Take out your business card, whatever the title under your name you can cross it out and scribble in ‘Problem Solver’. Recession or no recession, if you’re in business you solve problems and as Brian Tracy likes to say, the reward for solving problems is getting bigger problems to solve. Right now most of us have got one or two more problems to deal with, welcome the opportunity to stretch your problem solving muscles because the stronger those muscles, the more money, power and influence you will amass. The thing is if you think you can’t because of something called a recession, you won’t. Henry Ford said, ‘You think you can, you think you can’t, you’re always right.’ If you think you can’t you won’t even bother trying, if you think you can, you’ll give it your all. It may not be easy but if it was easy someone else would have done it long ago and got all the reward, it takes someone willing to roll up their sleeves and solve a problem. If it seems impossible remember what Nelson Mandela said: ‘It only seems impossible until it is done.’

What do CNN, Fedex, Sports Illustrated, GE, HP and MTV have in common? They all started during a recession. These organisations prove that there is no bad time to build a business. Right now there may even be a few advantages. Recessions are like veld fires, they scorch away the diseased, mangled overgrowth, releasing nutrients allowing fresh, green shoots to sprout. If you can dig your roots in good and deep during times like these, when the cycle turns, as it inevitably does, you will be around to reap the rewards. It’s your choice. This recession will make you bitter or better, want to get better? Ask yourself right now, what can I do differently to improve my chances of success? Now, go do it!


Justin Cohen is an international speaker. This article is based on an inspirational video he created, to view it go to www.biglittlestories.com