HR Management & Compliance

The Time for Bold Action

In difficult times such as these, with the economy in disarray and unemployment at a 20-year high, the natural reaction for many is to pull back. We want to do the safe thing. Recessions are a time to make cuts, reduce risk and weather the storm. Whether you’re talking about individuals or organizations, this is the conventional wisdom.

Let me suggest an alternative. This is a time for bold action. When everyone else is pulling back it’s time to step forward and set yourself apart. I think the English writer Charles Caleb Colton captured it well when he wrote, “Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.”

Sure we could all take the safe route and wait for things to improve. But there is opportunity for those who are willing to take some risk. It’s not different than the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost more than half of its value in the last 18 months or so. Many people have seen their retirement savings decimated by the free falling stock market. But there’s also opportunity in stocks for those willing to take the risk and buy. Could they lose their money? Sure. But they could also ride the rising tide of the recovery.

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, John D. Rockefeller said, “These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again.” Prosperity will return again, but will you be waiting for it to happen or making it happen?

If you’re in business and your competitors are slashing advertising budgets, this is likely a great time to gain market share. With everyone cutting their advertising spending, it’s certainly a buyer’s market for ad space. Dramatically increase your advertising spending and grab a larger share of the market. Let your competitors sit still waiting for better times, you’re taking their customers.

Let’s assume your company’s current product line-up is positioned at the top of the market. You’re known for a high-quality, premium-priced offering. This might be the ideal time to introduce a lower-cost alternative that helps retain customers who would otherwise flee to your lower-priced competitor. Something you’d do if the economy is booming? Maybe not, but it might be the right thing to do today.

Or, if you sell direct to the consumer, this might be a perfect time to let your customers set their own price — within limits. I’m not advocating losing money on every sale. But what about accepting any price that is profitable for you? Isn’t it better to make a sale with a 2% margin, than not make one that would have had a 10% margin? It seems simple to me. Sure, you could argue that you’d be setting a dangerous precedent, that customers will come to expect this from you forever. But I think any change in business practices can be easily explained by reminding the customer that desperate times call for desperate measures. When the recovery happens you can move back to doing things the old way. That is, if you’re new way of doing business isn’t working better.

Will your bold action work? There are no guarantees. Since this seems to be my day for quotes, let me give you another.  “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” Those are the words of John F. Kennedy and they apply to us today. It may seem like the best course of action is do the same old thing or the safe thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing that there aren’t risks associated with doing so. Staying with the status quo might just get you more of the same results you’ve been experiencing lately.

So I challenge you, make the decision right now to do something that will set you apart from those around you. Not a small step, but a bold one. Don’t do it halfway. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. In the words of Thomas Fuller, “He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea.” Set sail today with your bold idea and you’ll reap the rewards.

Dan Oswald, is president and publisher of M. Lee Smith Publishers, which produces the Employment Law Post and as well as many online and print products and live events with information from experienced employment law attorneys in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, to help human resources and business professionals comply with state and federal employment laws.

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