Blog Leadership

Working Through the Lean Times

By TAPE CEO/President Louisa Jaffe

Even when there is widespread agreement that the economy is down, I find that defining times as “lean” or not is a matter of perspective. My experience is that there is an opportunity for success in every environment.

To illustrate this principle, I will share something I learned in a marketing class years ago: Rolls Royce managed to maintain their market at the very high end of automobile production and design for many, many decades, regardless of the ups and downs of the economy. How were they able to do this? By limiting the number of cars they produced.

They were not trying to sell to everyone. They had their niche at the top and though people entered and exited, there were always people there. They found that no matter what happened in the economy, there were always a set number of people in the top strata who could purchase their car.

What the rest of us who are not owners in the Rolls Royce Company want is to find our own formula where “lean” is not eroding success. If we are experiencing times as “lean,” it may mean we cannot see a way to travel further on our current path. So instead of focusing on disappointed expectations or trends in the economy, the way to work through the lean times is to find opportunities to succeed, perhaps in different ways. The solution may be to see if another path can get us to our desired destination. Famous American poet, Robert Frost, called this, “The Road Less Traveled.”

Finding opportunities

My father did this growing up in the Great Depression. He always worked; even as a child, he had two or three jobs at the same time, because he found that even if someone could not employ him full time, they could pay him to do a small job. When he added up all the small jobs, he could help his family.

How can you work through today’s lean times of high unemployment? Look for the opportunities! Let us say your goal is to be employed with benefits and security but that is not available. This allows you to call on your own assets in a way you may never have thought of, and start your own business or businesses.

Companies may have to lay off a full-time person in your field, but they may still have a need for that work to be done. So maybe they can hire you to work one day a week, and maybe four other companies can do the same thing. So, lean times are really a chance to ask ourselves, “Where are we looking?”I heard it said once that if you can see only darkness in front of you that only means you have turned away from the light of your own imagination. And all you have to do is turn around and look into a different direction. Leaders do not keep looking into the dark. Leaders look for the light. We will find what we need to find, within ourselves as well as outside of ourselves. That is how we get through the lean times.

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