Charleston Regional Business Journal
Dec 22, 2008
Too strong to be defeated or discouraged: an indomitable work ethic
The holiday season and all it promises is swirling around us. In spite of the hectic pace we all feel this time of year, it’s a time to slow down, reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a time of giving and celebration, honored in various ways based on our own beliefs, culture and traditions. At the center of it all, we are asked to believe in something bigger than us, something we may not fully understand. For some of us, the true spirit of the season can lift and help carry us over many an obstacle.
In a year sure to be remembered for resetting our material value system, it’s a time of reflection and evaluation. The New Year ahead gives us good cause for a new start. This just may be the best time ever to adopt an indomitable spirit, one that is too strong to be knocked out of the game, even when it seems like a losing season for the economy on the whole.
And yes, it took a while for the recession to be labeled “real” though many businesses, key sectors in particular, have been feeling it and living it for some time now. It’s always nice to have your feelings validated, at least.
So now that we know we’ve been suffering in the big “R” since December, ’07, surely we are also on our way to working out of and over it. However, some forecasters are saying we may set a new record here and that it could be more painful than the 1980- 81 event. Even with that pessimism, it seems to me that some part of working our way through this comes in not caving to the negativity but keeping an optimistic outlook, being smart about how we spend and save as consumers and getting even wiser about how we market to our customers.
How you speak to and engage your target audience is always essential – for you and for your clients too. Smart, tough minded businesses always think strategically and execute efficiently. It’s never been more essential than now as you plan in response to this changing and unsettled marketplace. There is business out there – and we are all still consumers, after all, maybe just more reluctant, thriftier and more selective.
In our business, we’re seeing a lot of activity and so are our clients. Everyone seems to be feeling it one way or another to varying degrees, but are holding steady against the tide. Here, some months back now, we started to strategically shift our own focus back to areas (professional service, non- profits, select hospitality/food and beverage) where we have worked for many years.
Also worth noting is that our team is lean and mean, so to speak. They “get” this business; they work smart and hard and are extremely loyal. Look around your own organization (and those of your vendors) to be sure that only the highest caliber of individual flanks you and your business. If not, could be time to trim a little fat, if your bottom line could use that lift.
Just don’t trim muscle, as a colleague puts it – and that’s the marketing budget. While the immediate reaction may be to pull the plug, pause to consider which rock will they find you under when the rebound begins?
If you have to make cuts, try to leave the lean mass intact. If not, it could be the other guys who are positioned for the rebound, just as you’re trying to find your way out from under that large rock when the economic storm clouds lift. When that time comes, and it will, be sure you haven’t buried yourself so deep in the economic ditch that you can’t jump back in with gusto for all that lies ahead.
These days, it’s critical to give customers a compelling reason to work with you, so be sure that’s reflected in the core message to your audiences. Be clear about what sets you apart and then go find the proof to support that. Whatever you do, don’t let them forget you, as they’re prone to do when you dive for cover rather than hurdling over the landmines.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
At the end of it all, smart businesses will again prove their indomitable spirit and will survive, perhaps even thrive, in spite of difficult economic times. And yes, the tough get tougher. We all love the high life, but the contractions hurt. Smart businesses work long and hard to have a positive balance sheet and core assets to fall back on.
Most critically, they have also worked arduously to ensure solid brand awareness and strong brand equity. With all of that in place, they will surely weather this storm, this season and whatever other obstacles may lie ahead. For them, the stars will be just overhead.
Elizabeth L. Boineau runs E. Boineau & Company, a strategic marketing communications and public relations firm based in Charleston. You may reach her at email@example.com.