Kraft Mac & Cheese, pantyhose, and Apple iPods.
When times get tough, we see the emergence of true leadership and vision. The choice is to wallow in pity, self doubt and second guessing or – to act and charge ahead, WITH COURAGE.
It is during hard times that we most need to look for opportunities, to get creative, to hone our capabilities and look for new ways to succeed.
In the recession of 2001 and 2002, General Electric, with billions of dollars of sales in light bulbs failed to keep up with the inventiveness of rivals who were developing more-efficient LED technology. Last year GE tried to sell their lighting business and there were no buyers. Are they maybe too late?
In the recessions of the late 70’s and early 80’s the main “gymnastics” foot wear companies (Keds, and Converse) did not pay attention to the market and consequently a couple of upstarts got their momentum. Ever hear of Reebok or Nike?
This list of those who got their start during hard times is impressive.
· Miracle Whip at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
· The iPod arrived shortly after 9/11.
· DuPont launched nylon at the 1938 World’s Fair.
· Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was a 1937 creation.
During the early 1980’s I worked on the small team of 3 that introduced a brand new concept in the United States. We invented and introduce to grocery stores in this county a thing called No-Name Generics. These plan labeled food products took the country by storm. Any bad memories of that economic downturn are non-existent for me, because we were so busy. We couldn’t keep up with the business. It was a blast to see our products whoop up on the Kraft Foods and General Foods of the world. We had no advertising, the ultimate in bad packaging and sometimes lesser quality, but win we did.
So as a leader how can you capitalize on the current business environment?
1. Listen to your employees. There was a time when the executive knew they had to do their Strategic Plan at least once every three to five years. Not any more. In a few weeks I am facilitating a planning retreat for a company that is doubling in size every year (even during these bad times). They do their Strategic Planning every three to six months. Of course they use me, because I get everyone involved and gather the insights from all the team members . . . fast.
2. Listen to your customers. Before the current successful run of Apple Computer and their laptops, iPod and iPhone there was the Newton and the Lisa. Most are not familiar with either of these two products. After hearing about the issues and complaints on the Lisa computer Apple went back to the creation process and introduced a “new and improved” product titled – The Macintosh. The lessons learned from the Newton personal digital assistant morphed into the rich offerings of the iPhone.
3. Fail. If you ask a successful person what they have learned from their successes they will probably give you a blank look. But ask them what they learned from their failures and you will get rich, thick wisdom, as they share the lessons learned from the monsters conquered.
4. Look into your own heart. Courage is what is called for these days. The lack of leadership is evident in government, our companies, the military and even various churches.
Ask yourself, “what are my goals.” Think New Years Resolution. Think competitive. Think coaching and teaching the team so that when the pace picks up again (and it will pick up again) they are more than ready for the challenge.
Zig Ziglar had an old say that goes, “the optimist is someone who, when he wears out his shoes, is just on his feet again.”
It may not be the best time to make huge investments, but it is a great time to wear yourself out in doing, building, planning, expanding, learning and leading.
It is the courage and faith of leaders that when coupled with action creates the enthusiasm that is contagious. Years ago, I was in Australia doing a job that was tough, tough, tough. Everyday I would quote Henry Ford’s Fireplace motto to myself before leaving for work.
You can do anything if you have enthusiasm
Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars.
Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eye,
It is the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistable surge of your will and your energy to execute your ideas.
Enthusiasts are fighters! They have fortitude.
They have staying qualities!
Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress, with it there is accomplishment, without it there are only alibis!
So let me bring this rant to an end. Make those plans. Set those goals. There is a religious term for this . . . FAITH. When the storms come, the maps come out and alternate routes are created. If that is good enough for the airline pilot or the ship’s captain, should that not be a great consideration for you? Are you an inspiration or are you in desperation?
Well said Shakespeare:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.