Thrive in a Recession. How to.

by Roy H. Williams

Some people say a recession is coming.

Others say it’s already here.

Experts say the best way to start a recession is to predict one’s on the way. So hey, I’m not predicting a recession, okay? REMEMBER! If a recession sneaks up on us in 2008, do NOT blame it on me.

Did your elementary school have fire drills?

Step 1. Get in a straight line.
Step 2. Walk orderly down the hallway and out the door.
Step 3. Don’t stop until you get to the far edge of the playground.

In my elementary school, we also practiced what to do in case of nuclear attack:

Step 1. Crawl under your desk.
Step 2. Put your head between your knees.

Then in High School we learned Step 3 when we saw it on a poster. You remember Step 3, don’t you? "Kiss your ass goodbye."

A recession is like a fire, a regular run-of-the-mill, garden variety, five-and-dime fire. Nothing special. Nothing nucular.*

So here’s what to do if a recession happens: (And I’m definitely NOT saying one’s coming, remember? Let’s be clear about that.)

1.    Evaluate your risk orientation. “Got guts?”
2.    Summon your staying power. “Got tenacity?”
3.    Think forward, into the future. Ask, “What will I wish I had done?”
(Answer: You’ll wish you would’ve grabbed market share while it was lying unprotected for the taking.)
4.    Return in your mind to the present time.
5.    Do what you wish you’d have done. Grab that unguarded market share while everyone else sits on their hands and waits for Good Times to come home.

Market share is easily won when your competitors are cutting expenses. The big frustration comes when you learn that growing your market share doesn’t mean an immediate increase in revenues. Here’s an example:

  • 10 million dollars change hands each year in your market category.
  • The category contains 10 competitors.
  • The Big Gorilla does 2 million.
  • The Principal Challenger does 1.5.
  • The remaining 8 of you split 6.5 million.
  • You’re a slightly taller-than-average midget doing a smooth 1 million. (The other 7 midgets do about $800,000 apiece.)
  • You come alive during the recession and double your market share.
  • But the market has shrunk from 10 million dollars to just 5 million.
  • Congratulations. You now control 20 percent of the market. But you’re still doing just 1 million.
  • Doesn’t quite feel like a victory, does it? Be patient. When money begins to flow again – and it will – you’ll find you’ve become a major force in your category. And you’ve got momentum.

When times are good and money is abundant, it’s easy to coast on yesterday’s reputation. You’ve seen it happen. But when there’s not enough business to go around, the rules revert to survival of the fittest. This is when courageous little companies leapfrog their traditional masters and leave them on the trail behind.

My elementary school never had a fire.

But it seemed prudent to have a plan regarding how to behave should a fire occur.

Roy H. Williams

* Spelling per George W.

Fabulous Fire Insurance. Dirt cheap. Available for 3 days only.

Limited-Seating Classes at Wizard Academy disappear from the home page when the 14th student has registered. This is why you didn’t see many classes listed for November or December; most of them sold out quickly and disappeared from the menu. Word to the Wise: Take a look at what’s coming up in early ’08, while you still can. – RHW

Read more Monday Morning Memos or Subscribe!

3 thoughts on “Thrive in a Recession. How to.

  1. jen_chan

    In life, there are a lot of things we wish we could have done. At the end of every less than successful endeavor, isn’t that the question we ask all the time? However, a lot of people don’t really take that into consideration when they’re actually in the process of being able to do something about it.

  2. alfredo muccino

    The article on how to deal with a recession is interesting and, obviously, very timely. It sure smells like a big slowdown out there.
    I’m one of the two founding partners of Liquid Agency, a brand marketing firm located in Silicon Valley. We have not been hit as hard by the economic downturn, yet…but we’re bracing for tough times. We started the agency right after the dotcom bust in 2000…and people wondered about the relevance of brand-building during times of economic uncertainty. And there certainly was a ton of uncertainty in the air.

    We responded by putting together a summit during which some of the top brands in technology could come together and talk about some of these issues…and determine the best practices to put in place.

    Well…we’re doing it again. The event is called the Liquid Brand Summit, and it takes place on February 26, 2008 in Palo Alto, CA. We have ten topics…ranging from “Green Branding” to “Mobile Marketing”…and the discussions are being lead by seasoned marketers from companies like eBay, Adobe, Yahoo!, TiVo, HP, etc.

    I am sure that the topic of branding in recessionary times will end up in the conversation…

    I will report the findings…in the meanwhile, if you’re interested, check out:


    Alfredo Muccino
    Chief Creative Officer
    Liquid Agency


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *