By Todd Smithee

We have all heard the story of General McAuliffe’s response to the German’s surrender ultimatum in WWII.  His answer was simple: “Nuts.”  The message did not translate very well, but the General went on to win the day.  While we are not facing such dire issues today, the economy is not as robust as we would like.  We constantly hear about how bad things are:  We need government support or the banking industry will shrivel and die.  The stimulus is desperately needed or else we are headed to the next Great Depression.  Constant news reports on the stock market, unemployment, and general doom and gloom.  My recommendation:  Turn off the radio.  Limit your time on the news websites.  Skip cable news altogether.  In short, “just say “Nuts.”  Focus on two things you can do to improve your situation:  your existing customers and potential opportunities presented by the current economic climate.

Existing Customers

Your existing customers are the lifeblood of your company in good times.  In tough economic times they are the entire cardio-vascular system (and the lifeblood, too).  We have all heard about how much easier it is to retain a client versus acquire new customers.  Take the extra time to pick up the phone and call your clients.  It is a fact that more competitors will be moving into your turf.  It is also a fact that people prefer to purchase from someone they like.  This is a factor that economists still seem to have trouble quantifying.  Quick “how are you doing?” calls can provide a great deal of business intelligence.  You might learn about a way you can help your client with financing or creative shipping, or discover other ways that you can be of service during difficult times.  This extra service level can help to insulate you against future intrusions by the competition and help you gain market share in the long run.  If nothing more, you might buy yourself a second chance in a competitive situation.  Financial issues might still rule the day, but a relationship might give you the inside track on a competitive deal.


Regardless of the economic climate, there are always opportunities to do big things.  HP and Disney are prime examples of Depression Era success stories.  The key is the same as it is in good times.  Find a product or service the market needs and provide it with the best possible service.  Look for opportunities to leverage your core competencies to provide goods and services in ways you have not previously considered.  Also, make sure everything is delivered with the highest level of quality and customer service.  When the economy does rebound, you will be in a much better position to fend off the global competition that is sure to be nipping at your heels.  Like it or not, those folks are here to stay.

In closing, surround yourself with positive people, shut off the news and make something happen.  Someone is going to do it.  It might as well be you.