At Your Service: March 3, 2010

It is when we are challenged, that we most often rise to the occasion and supersede our own expectations. Rarely are challenges more direct than when they come from nature, as we have seen in this last week. There are those among us who have not fully emerged from snowbound status, some still without power. We don’t have to look much further than our neighbors to find examples of people overcoming hardship.
The storm did not come without warning; yet its magnitude took us by surprise. The prognosticators indicated that the worst-case scenario was 17 inches of snow in our mountains, just a little less than the four feet we are digging out from under. The many caught unawares had to draw from their existing reserves.
While a few rushed to the shovel and wound up among the wounded; many more took it slow and easy, lifting from their knees, to move aside more snow than they ever expected to simply shovel. The smart ones already had a relationship with someone who, brandishing their plows, removed the snowfall in stages. The truly wise never lose sight of the fact that this area periodically has severe winter storms; their freezers and pantries are well-stocked, a generator is available with the flick of a switch and their vehicle sits next to the road with its wiper blades in the air.
People have been reacting personally in much the same way that business owners must respond to storms in the market. Careful planning may predict the inevitable ups and downs that are part of every market cycle; severe swings are evident only to those with both comprehensive information and extraordinary instincts. Most of us simply make the best decisions we can based on what we perceive from season to season.
After gathering the inventory that will satisfy various customer needs, setting up displays that bring the best aspects of those products to the forefront and developing and executing a marketing campaign that gets the word out, only the first step has been taken. Very few are in position to take these steps without some type of institutional financial support, the likes of which has been very hard to come by recently. Whether a business is product or service oriented, taking the steps to ensure that the accompanying service is high quality is the ultimate preparation for the storm.
If the storm that hit the economy a couple of years ago had been measured, it would have equated on a worldwide scale to the earthquakes that recently rocked Haiti and Chile. Similarly, there were short-term attempts to stabilize the most evident problems but the long-term recovery is dependent upon individual businesses reaching new levels of success. As each business finds the mix of products, financial support and service that move it forward, new jobs are created and money moves back into the economy.
While this week’s storm was nothing compared to what was happening in Chile, in the moment of disaster, each individual must rise to their own challenge. Those who are well-prepared for the worst of circumstances always fare better than those who must improvise. It is worth noting, however, that those with the grit still make it through and sometimes, the lessons learned from not having been prepared take the learner to a completely new place.
The best outcomes from any kind of challenge are found among those who learned critical lessons and are now prepared in previously inconceivable ways for whatever the next storm brings.