In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. Proverbs 14:26 KJV
You may have heard one or more versions of The Hot Dog Vendor Fable. It’s worth repeating at this moment in history.*
Joe was your average Joe. As a young father, he bootstrapped his way into success with a street corner hotdog stand. But then he made a critical mistake. Actually, a very common mistake. A mistake that you and I are at risk of making this very moment.
Joe always made wonderful hot dogs, supplied superior condiments, and his hot dog rolls were second to none. He built a thriving business with raving fans that handed him dollar bills daily. He even made enough money to send his only son to college.
Then, one day, his son came home for a visit. “Dad,” he said in a very serious tone, “there is a big recession coming. You need to prepare for the worst. You need to tighten your belt and save anywhere you can. There will be a lot of businesses that lay off workers or even close down completely. They won’t be coming out to your hot dog stand for lunch. This will be very hard on your hot dog business.”
Trusting his educated son’s advice, Joe began to notice things he hadn’t thought about before. He soon began to feel that the signs of an economic downturn were all around him. He decided he better slim down his daily order of hot dogs and rolls so he wouldn’t be stuck with old inventory. He started running out of supplies just a little earlier in the day than usual. His income dropped. He had more time at home to worry about the recession.
Then his lighted sign went bad. “No use replacing that,” he thought. “My regular customers already know where I’m at.” Joe just took it down.
A few weeks later, he was reviewing his sales figures and decided to cut his daily order another 15%. He just wasn’t selling as much as he used to. And now he knew the recession had hit for real.
Did the recession hit Joe, or did Joe hit the recession?
Let’s be very careful how we respond to the news of the COVID-19 recession. Have things changed? Well, there is no denying that things have changed “out there.” But what about “in here” between your own two ears? Your own thinking can create a self fulfilling prophecy of doom.
Instead of immediately focusing preemptive efforts on limiting risk, we should first focus on looking for opportunity. This does not deny the reality that things are different. Rather, we accept that we will need to figure out how to respond to the changes, so we can still serve the needs our customers have. They still have needs. They might be different now than a month ago. What can you do to solve the new problems that your customers have?
Cofounder and Visionary at Rosewood Marketing
* Kudos to Confidence in Crisis Round Table attendee Darryl Weaver for bringing the Hot Dog Vendor Fable to my attention and inspiring this article.