Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 'Crisis'

I have been trying to write this blog all day. I cannot seem to get it right. I have been trying to prove that the economic situation is being perpetuated by the media. I went into these long diatribes about how the media starts every news cast with horrible news. It's like it has become the apocolypse. I went back and got transcripts of every single speech Obama has made since he became the Democratic nominee to prove that Obama, the savior of America, is at the top of the negative food chain. I went back and compared our situation right now to the Great Depression. All the while, I wasn't proving a thing. I was just another part of the problem I was trying to eliminate.

So as I went back to re-read what I had written, I hit ctrl+a and hit delete. I started over.

We all watch the news, we all listen to Obama [supporters and non-supporters alike], and most of us have a job, yet all we hear in the media is what is going wrong. The obituary of our economy plays everyday on the news at 6pm.

The 'crisis' is fear. The media is out to scare us. The President is out to scare us. We are out to scare us.

Everday the news starts with a bad news story about the economic crisis. The stock market lost XYZ points today. The recession creeps closer to the "brink of the abyss of depression" as Chris Matthews tells us. CNN told me today that the economic outlooks is "abysmal".

So how do Americans feel? They feel scared. Of course they would. The President said the journey is going to be "long and hard". He describes it like it's John Holmes and we are the ungreased assholes [pornographic I know, but again I don't care]. If I was sitting at home and my savings was drying up, my 401k was losing value, and my company was going out of business, I would be scared too. There have been so many casualties of this economic 'war' that every person with a job is on the cutting block, or so they feel.

Yesterday I sat in a large conference with the leaders of my company. They were announcing our 4th quarter results and setting the ground work for 2009. Where have we been? Where are we going? Everyone wanted to know what our outlook was for 2009, considering the crisis. The area president was there, the company COO was there. They brought out the big guns. Everyone in the room was nervous. We had just spend a ton of cash on aquiring another company. Our 4th quarter results were not to the expectations of Wall Street anaylists, what is going to happen with our company?

As the conference rolled on we heard from our finance guys. We heard from our network guys. We heard from our marketing guys. We heard from our advanced data guys. With every presenter my excitement grew. It was like the slow creep of the roller coaster up the first hill. With every foot closer to the top, the adrenaline in your blood stream gets more and more potent. After all the presenters were up, our COO took the stage for his speech.

His tone was not akin to a funeral. It was quite the opposite.

He looked at all of his employees and addressed the economic crisis. He gave us a history. He told us a story of how he got into the cellular business. It was 1973. He just moved from the state of Arkansas to New York to start a business where people could be mobile, yet still talk on the phone. He was literally selling air to companies. At the time the Oil Crisis of 1973 was in full swing. Inflation was rampant, unemployement was in the double digits, and people were literally fighting at the gas pumps. The crisis we have on our hands now is not as bad as it was back then, yet we are gathering canned food for our bomb shelters.

As his speech continued he gave us an example of his sales process back then. He said he had to figure out what his client needed. He needed to find a reason why he couldn't live without my product. At this point mobile phones were an unnecessary convienience, and a cumbersome suitcase. They were not popular, they were barely reliable, but he was able to leverage the customer's needs, with the benfits of his product. He had to show that by buying his product, they would get a return on their investment in time saved and convenience.

A lot has changed in my industry, but they are exactly the same as they were in 1973. The only thing that has changed since is the wide use of cell phones and the ease in which customers will part with their money to buy a cellular phone.

Many businesses would say that people aren't buying. I would say that those businesses haven't given the consumer a reason to spend money. The media would say that consumer spending has fallen off because of the economic crisis. I would say consumer spending has fallen off because the businesses haven't done a good job at adapting to the economic outlook.

I am not naive enough to think that there is not a problem. But my COO said something that rings true.

Many companies are slashing prices to attract customers, and they are in fact ruining their industries. Our company sells a better product than our competition and we charge more for it. Sure we have not grown our customers to the analysts expectations, but we out sold our competition. We "kept selling and we didn't slash the prices and ruin our industry." We went back to the ROI [return on investment] selling. During the height of the cell phone boom in the late 90's, people would line up outside the stores to get a cell phone. Now that people are holding onto their money like a life raft and we have to assure people that by purchasing our products, they are not letting go of the life raft and wrapping their arms around a cinder block. Cell phones aren't a luxury anymore, they are a necessity. How do we sell to a customer that just lost their job and are depending on unemployment until they get a new job? How do we sell to a family who has 2 kids in college and their investments are losing value, and their income isn't going up?

"We need to step our game up."

This is not a time for us to lick our wounds and feel sorry for ourself. The mantra that my COO was touting from his soap box rings true for the rest of America. We need to step our game up! We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start holding ourselves accountable.

Right now retails sales is tough. But right now, nothing is easy. Instead of letting the economy be an excuse for poor results, I must make an investment in myself. I must push forward and better my skills. I have to polish myself like a stainless steel kitchen. Poor economy is not a reason to sit at home and hunker down. It is a time where the strong get stronger, and the weak get weaker. I have to polish my presentation skills like I am a chef plating a dish. I have to look at my subjects differently like I am a photographer looking for the perfect shot. I am not cooking, I am not taking a picture, but I am trying to get you to part with your money and make an investment in me.

If you are among the weak, you will fail unless you try and do something different. You don't win Top Chef with a deviled egg.

There is a paper factory in Wisconson that closed down. There was 500 employees out of work. What did they do? Went back to school to learn a new trade. If Obama gets his way, the construction industry is in for a big boom, so most of those 500 employees are learning to weld and drive trucks. These employees are not sulking with a woe is me attitude, like the news media wants us to. They are proactively seeking a new skill.

What America needs is a pep talk. Obama has inspired us all with his vision of hope, but he has not inspired anyone to act. My COO inspired me to act. He has inspired me to take off the practice jersey and put on my varsity letters.

The road ahead is not going to be easy. This is a time to sink or swim. I have signed up for my swimming lessons. Have you?


tangobaby said...

I'm going to go back and reread this post again, but first I have to say one thing, based on personal experience.

I have not owned a television in over a decade. I cannot tell you how liberating it is to be freed of the mainstream television media, advertising and "news" (which is anything but helpful, accurate reporting).

If Americans would stop watching tv, hell, try for even a week or a month, when they go back to it, they'll see how manipulated they've been. This climate of fear can totally be turned around by turning OFF the television and finding something else to do.

And with that, I'm going back to read your post again!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i like how you got some kitchen stuff in here!!

I don't think obama is a fear bushie that was his stick and I think it was banging that drum that got us into the dul-drums we are in.

I know way too many people who have been laid off....don't even get me started on the health care/health insurance catastrophe!!

It's Just Me said...

EXACTLY!!!!!! Well said. I have been tooting this horn for 1/2 a year now. Man, people look at me like I have flipped! Although there are several people who agree - they say, "my checkbook has never looked better". Granted our retirement dropped $3000 even though we contributed $1500 to it? Other then that there has been very little effect.

What I think the problem is (beside the news) is that people have been living ridiculously. They should take a step back and consider.... is a cup of coffee REALLY worth $4 plus the impact it is having on the environment with the cup etc. Or, hey, look a coffee maker is $50 and really good beans are about 50 a cup! (Just as an example)

We should look at how we live and make it more "real". ($100 jeans? REALLY? ) But, are we in the depth of despair? I don't believe so. There are jobs out there - you just have to change your game plan! However, I still have my jobs/insurance/house - so who am I to talk

It's Just Me said...

I linked by the way....

Starlene said...

Adam, I must be honest, I didn't think too much of you at first glance because our politics don't agree but I need to give credit where credit is due. This was a very candid, straightforward description of the fear epidemic sweeping across the country. However, not only did you direct our attention to core of our troubles, you thrust the most obvious solutions right under our noses. There's no missing it. We need to buck up and adapt to the situations at hand. After turning off the t.v., or course.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this. : )

Snotty McSnotterson said...

"You don't win Top Chef with a deviled egg." And how.

Good post.

It's Just Me said...

There is something waiting for you at my blog under the post Passing on the joy. Join me if you will.