Published on: March 12, 2009Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and sponsored this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
I’m not the smartest guy in the world. In fact, a lot of people would say I don't even make it into the top 3.5 billion. But I am one of the luckier people I know, lucky enough to know some of the smartest people out there.
Earlier this week, I quoted journalist and pundit Mike Barnicle, who commented on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that we needed to launch a war on pessimism if we are to get out of the economic mess that we’re in. Shortly after that piece ran, I got an email from my friend Jim Donald, the former CEO of companies like Pathmark and Starbucks, who is one of the smartest people around…and he pointed out that in recently doing some research, he identified nine companies that managed t survive the Depression and four wars, and remain in business today.
Those businesses are Yuengling Beer, A E Schmidt (which makes billiards tables), Cornell Iron Works, Crane and Co (the printing business), Marshall Elevator, Martin Guitars, Harden Furniture, and Bixler’s Jewelry.
Jim suggested that among the reasons these companies have managed to survive is that they have had in place two key principles – they have always made top-down cuts first, not making the front lines absorb the hits, and they have worked hard to insure that perseverance and optimism rule the day.
Jim, who is both a student and a practitioner of the art and science of management, noted that these companies had a number of other values in common, such as a belief in the importance of building trust for both customers and employees; the critical nature of creative marketing; the importance of constant innovation, even in tough times; always have new customer “lures”; keep debt low; and always thinking long-term, viewing “downturn planning” as a strategy as opposed to a necessary evil that turns into equal measures panic and desperation.
I may not be the smartest guy but I’m observant enough to know that what Jim Donald is describing seems to be in short supply these days … that too many businesses have substituted anxiety and tactical thinking for the kind of measured, long-term strategic thinking that they’d be engaged in if they really had confidence in themselves and their businesses.
If we’ve learned anything in the past six months, it is that it may be as hard to survive the good times to make it through the bad times. Which is why realistic optimism and pragmatic yet enduring confidence is required in both circumstances.
A war on pessimism? Some companies, I would submit, have already declared it. And they have a far better chance of winning long-term than those succumbing to the worst angels of their nature.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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