Dealing with a sucky economy

Yep, it’s official: We’re in a recession. Have been since December
2007. All hell is breaking loose, we’re all going to lose our jobs, and
we’ll be subsisting on peanut butter (yikes!) and ramen noodles within
weeks. Or so you’d believe if you listen to economists, financial
experts and reporters.

Frankly, I’m tired of all that. Seeing as how I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl, I prefer to find opportunity amid the chaos.

get me wrong: The tough economy is hitting pretty close to home (trust
me, publishing is a business you don’t want to be in these days). But I
also believe the crunch will prompt us, and businesses around the
globe, to make smarter decisions, to focus and to pursue what matters.
And those things, in the long term, will set us up for success. Here’s
what I mean:

Make smarter decisions. As resources (both people and
finances) get tighter, big companies and small design agencies can’t
afford to pursue half-baked ideas that don’t have real potential. We
simply can’t spin our wheels making products our customers don’t want,
or extending brands beyond their logical audiences. As designer and
business coach Peleg Top argues in HOW's April Business
column, we can’t spend foolishly to upgrade to the new cell phone we
don’t need, or to write a new car off as a company expense. We need to
be smart and strategic about how we spend our time, money and manpower.

Focus. If you’re a freelance designer or design firm
that takes any project from any client who knocks on your door, you’re
probably feeling the pinch more acutely than your peers who specialize
in specific markets or categories. Why? Because your clients don’t
perceive you as an expert who’s vital to the very survival of their
businesses. For years, gurus like David Baker
have touted the value of finding a focused market for your design
services, so you can develop a deep and valuable understanding of your
clients’ needs and goals. Companies retain relationships with their key
partners during a downturn.

Pursue what matters. An article published by the American Marketing Association in 1993 (cited here),
following the 1991–1992 recession, reported that companies that
invested marketing dollars during the down economy gained market
share—and kept it. Now’s the time to ramp up your marketing efforts,
especially if your business is slow. Spend
those unbilled hours on projects to promote your own business, or invest in your career by learning one of the many in-demand

Panic? That’s for weenies. Be smart, focus and pursue what matters. We’ll all be fine.