You often hear people who have started a business describe themselves as entrepreneurs. Let’s face it; entrepreneur sounds much sexier than businessman or businesswomen. It makes you think of Elon Musk, Melanie Perkins, Gary Vee, Janine Ellis and those cool guys from Atlassian Mike Cannon Brookes and Scot Farquhar. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that gang?
An economic downturn reveals the true difference between entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Entrepreneurs are, by definition, optimistic. They don’t complain about things being slow, and they don’t feel defeated by the economic conditions or even pandemics. Where others see doom, they see sparks of opportunity.
My favourite podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz, which is inspirational listening to anyone in business, recently featured the story of restauranteur, Danny Meyer, founder Shake Shack, Eleven Madison Park, and over a dozen other hospitality businesses. During the interview, Danny recounts the best piece of business advice he ever got. It was from his grandfather, who said, “Stop complaining about problems. Problems are the definition of business. The people who do best in business aren’t the ones with the least problems; they’re the people who solve their problems better, and have more fun doing it with better people.”
Swap out the word business with the word brand, and the advice still holds. The reason for any brand to exists is that it solves a problem for its customers. A brand that doesn’t solve a problem is a business without a future.
During a recession, the flow of money through the economy slows down, but it doesn’t disappear. People become more cautious, but they still buy things. Marketing textbooks are full of case studies of brands that took advantage of economic recessions and depressions to grow market share. Kellogg’s, Amazon, Netflix, Toyota and Lego became global brands not because they pulled back, cut marketing spend and rolled down the shutters during tough times. It’s because they did the opposite.
In a few years, we will be reading similar stories about the brands that grew during the 2020 recession and the ones that fell by the wayside.
At Create & Co, we are fortunate to work with real entrepreneurs that see the current conditions as the ideal opportunity to work on their brand, update their website, refine their messaging and think about the way they solve problems for their customers. When the economic conditions improve, which they inevitably will, they will be in the best possible position to take full advantage.
When Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, was asked, “What do you think about the recession?” he famously replied, “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”
What would your answer be?