And it’s more fun. You’ve heard the saying: those trying to get even will lose those trying to get ahead. Current economic reports state that we’re experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression. While we humans feel more comfortable playing name tag and joining the negative maddening crowd with subjective sound-bite labels, let’s remember to review the objective facts. Even if unemployment reaches 12%, that means that 88% of us are employed. And we are all still consuming. While this fact does not help those recently laid-off, we are fortunate that Americans are resilient, resourceful and creative.
I began working in the clothing industry full time thirty-six years ago this month. That was the recession of 1973 to 1975. And since that time and even now there have been more recessions. Don’t let inertia stifle you. Automatically continuing past practices and policies and resisting change characterize a powerful but negative force. Instead of acquiescing to ‘woe is me,’ better to ask (if you want success) ‘where is me and where am I going?’ How can I use my experience, competencies, and capabilities to reverse any downward trends and grow profitably?
Even though we may be intelligent and creative under normal circumstances, unfortunately it takes a cataclysmic event to motivate us to move on from past practices. As part of Mother Nature, we’re not surprised to learn that intense and destructive forest fires are necessary from time to time to foster re-birth of certain species of seeds.
If your business is not as successful as you would like, you have few choices. You can stay where you are and succumb to the chorus of excuses to confirm your malaise. You can re-invest your energies from your past experiences or you can learn from the experiences of others.
In past recessions I increased my marketing efforts by calling more prospects and attending and exhibiting at more trade shows, and I am doing the same today. I sacrificed vacation time and invested that budgeted money into my business travel. The locales were not unattractive. First our company exhibited in Miami Beach at the Material World Show. We joined in with the Dominican Republic booth to save expenses.
For those of you unfamiliar with this exhibition, it’s the annual national gathering for those of us in all sorts of businesses related to the apparel and sewn products manufacturing supply chain. This list of attendees includes those in business from fiber to fabrics, manufacturers, trim suppliers, technical support services and transportation logistics. It’s all under one roof and further supported by the AAPN (American Apparel Producers Network) of which I am a proud member and currently serve on the board. We have about 300 members world wide that communicate and collaborate on various projects to serve our client’s demands. The network consists of qualified members with experience in most related fields who interact readily with a high degree of credibility. Many of us know our fellow members for years so interaction is facilitated. If we can’t resolve your issue or fill your demands, there’s an excellent chance we can refer you quickly to someone who can. Using the internet to connect our network responses to requests are typically forthcoming within minutes and not days or weeks.
Our company then moved directly to Las Vegas to attend and exhibit for the first time at the NAUMD (North American Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors) annual convention. Greco Apparel is a member of the NAUMD and I recently joined the membership committee. Even in these tough times, we attracted 56 new members this year, placing us third in growth among all professional organizations nationwide.
I found a number of parallels to the trade shows in Miami and Las Vegas. First there’s the opportunity to personally visit with your current vendors and customers. These are people you already know but may not visit too often due to the cost of travel. For the price of one plane fare you can see many contacts. Organic growth opportunities abound as you spend time with clients face to face. Second, there’s the group of people you know about but didn’t get a chance to call upon. You see their name badge and you talk. Not too difficult. Third is the category most fascinating: prospective clients and vendors that you don’t know and would not know how to reach. They walk into your booth eager with the anticipation for them to discover a new vendor who can now satisfy their needs. Whether they’re new entrepreneurs or established organizations, you won’t meet them unless you show up.
We can learn lessons from the experience of others whether it’s the same industry or taking the opportunity to benchmark from other non-related industries. In the Wall Street Journal of April 23rd, there was a whole section entitled “Strategies for Survival.” One of the articles, “Smart Ways to Cut Prices” by Diana Ransom of Smart Money.com detailed five helpful ideas, none from the apparel business but applicable nonetheless: 1) Switch to performance based pricing 2) Offer less expensive products 3) Use less costly materials. 4) Add slimmed-down services and 5) Offer extra services.
You can use your ideas or those borrowed from others. But there is no substitute for a successful attitude fortified by your energies invested in positive growth expectations. From the ancient Chinese to the current, times of crisis have always contained opportunities. This recession won’t last and it won’t be the last. Learn to be flexible and creative and you will succeed.