Taking another direction in this article, I’m referencing a bit of history. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave a speech. Looking at the things that were happening in society, the economy, and people’s outlooks at the time, it was not that different than it is now. There were financial hardships, there were people struggling to stay afloat, businesses wondering if they could remain open. Apathy was the enemy.
From the speech:
“The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.”
That excerpt , and really most of the speech, could just as easily be from current day. It applies to all of us. How would you respond? Would you allow the anxiety of uncertainty influence your business decisions, or forge ahead, throwing caution to the wind? Business-wise, the best approach is really a middle of the road, calculated but focused strategy. President Carter’s response was to listen to the people, find out what they were thinking, and then respond positively to encourage people to move forward. That was a sound move for the time, but it is also a timeless move.
You can use the same approach, by talking to your customers. Ask them to be open, honest and frank about what they like, don’t like, what they think you can do better, and what changes they would like to see. Just from listening to your customers, you can gain a lot of insight. That insight is worth more than just the time involved in having a face to face conversation, or reading a written response. If can be your map for future success.
President Carter then laid out a plan for moving forward. Using a multi-point approach, he distilled all of the thoughts and suggestions he collected from listening to people, to goals for moving in the right direction. He was focused on the energy crisis. You should focus on whatever you see as your most pressing threat to continuing or growing your business. Start with these 3 points, then expand.
Point 1: I am setting a clear goal for …
Point 2: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will …
Point 3: To assure that goal’s success for the future, I am …
Start your own plan, using these starting points. Plans can always be changed as the needs change, but if you don’t have a plan, getting moving in the right direction is much harder.
For a transcript of President Carter’s full speech, “Crisis of Confidence”, from July 15, 1979, go to the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.