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Adopting a Thrivalist Mentality

by Dr. M Marie Sanders


In an economy such as the US is experiencing today, it is common for many businesses to fail. Why? There are too many businesses (some that were "birthed" during the high economic times when demand exceeded supply and others that have been around for a long time). It's simple economics. Supply exceeds demand = growth = more businesses. Oftentimes that growth is "foundationless" - meaning it's not based on solid business plans, principles, or practices. As long as there is excess demand, the businesses will remain and some will be "profitable" -see illustration "a."

Illustration A

To use the words of a once popular song by Chad and Jeremy, "but that was yesterday, and yesterday's gone..." Business in the US today looks much more like illustration "b" with many industries seeing their customer base shrink by as much as 50%! Those not built on solid business plans, principles, and practices will neither have anticipated this nor have prepared in any significant way to meet the challenges of shrinking demand.

Illustration B

Let's look at what this shrinking demand does to each of three types of businesses.

  1. "D" - Dying (or already dead)
  2. "S" - Surviving (but just barely)
  3. "T" - Thriving

THRIVING...In today's economy? How can it be that while some businesses are dying others are thriving? The answer, in some cases, is simply that their demand base moves in the opposite direction of the economy. Consider the soup kitchen "industry" as an example. When the economy is strong and healthy (i.e., most people have a job and have a buying mentality) they don't need (demand) the products/services of a soup kitchen - right? So in a strong economy, the soup kitchen's customer base will be lower than other companies/organizations. But, when the economy weakens and people lose their jobs, quite the opposite is true for the soup kitchen "industry." I'm sure this is apparent. So, you say, "What difference does that make to us; we're not a soup kitchen?" Not much, this is meant to simply clear that fact out of the way so we can move on to the point of this article.

Let's examine each of the three types of businesses independently:

1. "D" - Dying (or already dead)

These are businesses that can't sustain themselves without the 100% (or close to it) customer base of "yesterday's economy." They may have started too late; used too much debt to start or grow the business; employed unsound business practices; failed to see the changing economic times or shifts in the needs of their customers; or there may be a whole host of reasons for their present situation. Maybe "they" are you. Regardless, they can't hold on and they have already or soon will fail (go out of business).

Just like everyone else, these businesses had customers "above the line" that are now GONE. They don't exist, they aren't buying, so forget about them. But what about their "below" the line customers -see illustration "c"? Are they gone? NO! They need somewhere to go... don't they? They're still real, alive and are still creating a "demand" for your goods and services!

Illustration C

2. "S" - Surviving (but just barely)

Who are the "Survivors?" They are the businesses and organizations that can barely survive at a 50% customer base level. What often happens is these companies take on a "survivalist mentality" and actually do more harm (to themselves and sometimes their customers) than good. The "survivalist" practices they adopt during this time drive some of their remaining customers away. This means that some portion of their customer base may become "up for grabs! -see illustration "d"

Illustration D

Which brings us to the main point. Overall customer demand for your products and services (based on the economy) is only a portion of the equation. It's as simple as the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest and not just survival - thrival!

3. "T" - Thriving

Let's play "What IF"... What if you had previously put in place sound business principles, processes, and practices, such as managing your finances in such a way as to be able to financially survive at the 50% customer level? Did you? If you did, "Hooray!" Now it's time to decide whether you want to be a "Survivor" or a "Thrivor.1"

Business as usual won't work right now. I recently heard about an incident that occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight where SWA employees were empowered to provide outstanding customer service in a difficult situation at the same time that their competitors were/are cutting back on customer service in every way possible (to cut survive). Consider the impact of their actions on their own customers AND on their competition's customers. Consider the result of that impact on SWA's customer base. I don't know about you, but when have an option to choose which airline to use, I chose SWA and other companies like them.

To be a Thrivor in today's economy, you must be innovative, adaptive, highly customer-focused, "clever as a fox but gentle as a dove..." IF you are, you should see their loss become your gain. You can't beat the economy, but it doesn't have to beat you either. You can whine, cry, shout, stomp your feet or you can roll up your sleeves and go to work. You decide - then act accordingly. All you need to know now is... HOW?

Illustration E

Illustration F

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About the author

Dr. M Marie Sanders

Dr. M Marie Sanders (USA)

Ms. Sanders holds an MBA and a Doctorate and has 30+ years of business experience in privately held businesses and non-profit organizations. She was a professor for the University of Central Oklahoma teaching undergraduate and MBA classes in the college of business (Leadership and Human Resource Management) and holds real estate broker licenses in two U.S. states.


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