The Daily Mood: Gloom, doom…and glory for some

Fact: Business is down. Times are tough. The only thing climbing is debt. Is the news all bad though?

The problem begins when you have a lot of talk, a lot of blaming and ‘if-onlys’, and little focused action. I, along with many of you, have to plead guilty to that in varying degrees. It’s true we don’t know how long it will be until the good times come back around, but even when they do, it is equally important to accept that oil at the 100-dollar mark will be a nice story to tell our grandkids.

Cutting costs can be a tool to becoming more efficient and traditionally, companies have used recessions as the perfect time to trim their fat. It’s strange though how so many think that this is the way to salvaging their business. When your revenue stays stagnant, or even declines with tightening market conditions, cutting costs will not be enough to stop the slide into oblivion.

There are some who have accepted that there are realities they can’t change and have taken the approach of grabbing the bull by the horns and changing themselves. They did not head straight to laying off people and cutting bonuses or salaries. They spent their time figuring out new ways of revenue generation, new ways of doing business. This is what gives me hope.

Let me tell you something I have seen over the past few months in my business. What does the average company do when times are tough? They decimate their marketing budgets and limit themselves to specific campaigns. Who becomes the winner here? The companies that never had giant marketing budgets, who realise that this is their best opportunity to shine.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see this new breed of advertisers who are appearing seemingly out of thin air. Their budgets may be modest but they are willing to talk volumes, and while negotiations are a lot tougher, the outcome is undoubtedly win-win for both.

In tough times, looking good is obviously not everyone’s foremost priority. Even in the shopping paradise that is Dubai, high-street brands are complaining about declining demand, let alone the rather deserted high-end stores, but a friend who runs a high-end fashion boutique is still going strong. How? Very simple. “You keep your focus on fashion, but just redefine it. Instead of just the classics, I have started investing in newer, quirkier lines. My existing customers love the slightly more wallet-friendly options and it brings in new customers as well.

The main reason why such business owners stay on top of the rough times is that they act. They are willing to go down a different path and believe that it’s never too late to do so. We all have a million ideas and plans, but the ones who get up and do something about it are leaving the rest behind.

Someone said to me the other day that the S&P downgrade of Oman’s credit rating may finally bring home the gravity of the situation to the man on the street and that this would help in curbing unrealistic expectations. I don’t think the common man is unaware of the situation: It’s possible that all he is looking for is someone to show him the way to an actionable reality.

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