Did your industry vanish yesterday? Are you sure?

Did your industry vanish yesterday? Are you sure?

This is the hardest day of the year… September 12th… the day the phones rang.

My husband used to have a business… for 15 years… recessions, tornado, flood… he thought that he had the right kind of network in the right industries to survive any economic cycle.

It wasn’t the largest business… 6 employees, 10k square foot workshop, and about double that in the customer storage and distribution area.  He made enough to support his parents when his mom’s health started to fail and she couldn’t work in home health care anymore… and then the company his dad worked at for 20+ years defaulted on the pension plan… no problem… 

He worked a bit harder, sold new verticals on his lightweight display panels that could mount any tool, bell or whistle and still be shipped UPS or Fed Ex…. Don’t think that you can afford to get your new widgets to a trade show?  Think you have to settle for pictures and brochures? Spend an hour with my hubby and he’ll show you how you can make it work and he still makes a decent profit.

Until the planes were grounded… and the phones rang… promises to talk in October… “when things get back to normal.”

He tried everything he could think of… he pitched salesman size demo boards… beefed up PowerPoint slide decks to animate what couldn’t be shown on the smaller boards… lowered the deposit percentage…. anything to get a contract.

What is your exit plan?  Who do you have to catch you?

What is your exit plan?

 

By the end of September the employees were all laid off… by the end of October his brother was pitching a change in industry…

From $5,000 displays to $80 dog jumps.  The folks had a way to pay the “family” bills… they thought everything was fine.  But we were drowning.  I couldn’t support us by myself.  From Sept 10th until April 10, 2002 he didn’t bring a single cent home.

Everyone he thought he could count on was struggling just as bad… I can’t even count how many small businesses gave up that winter.

He had never thought that he needed an exit plan.  He thought he knew his place and that word of mouth and the Thomas Register would pull him through.

We were lucky… and after 4 years we had all of the bills paid off from the whole hole that was dug that fall… and winter… and spring.  We never stopped talking and we never stopped reaching out to other small business owners in the area until life took us out of the region as everyone scattered from New England trying to find better lives in other parts of the country.

As the phone rings today and the gods of commerce bring abundance to your life… don’t forget to tithe some thought on lightening the burden of the unknown.  What new directions could you take?

In this Net influenced world we live in you may not think your industry can fall in a day, that everyone around you will be doing as bad if not worse.  Look no farther than the real estate industry… did you think in 2006 that Fannie and Freddie would fall when the mortgage lending towers came down?

What could your towers be? Have you woven the right connections to hold you up when the floor crumbles?  What is your exit strategy?  When will you be so successful that you want to sell?  When would you have to close the doors?

Netweaving isn’t one directional… How can you support the people you would depend on? Are you sure that they are doing well?  That they don’t need your help? Does your spouse know what that rainy day looks like?  Do you agree on when enough debt becomes too much debt?

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