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by Deborah Millhouse, President, CEO Inc.

Harry Truman is quoted as having said the following: “The only thing new in the world is the history we don’t know.” Understanding history is crucial to developing your strategy for the future. Remember the following Wall Street history:

On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plunged a record 507.99 points to 1738.74. This decline of 22.6% is the largest one day percentage drop of the DJIA and has become known as the black Monday crash. Then less than two years later, the Dow closed at 2256.43, back to where it was before black Monday.

The bull market lasted about nine years. Then the roller coaster started again when the largest weekly gain in history was offset by the largest dollar loss in history. Terrorist attacks and fear were replaced by renewed focus and optimism about the future. Now, that optimism has turned back to fear because people are forgetting history.

On its surface, this fear seems absolutely justifiable. After all, nationwide unemployment is over ten percent, while North Carolina sees nearly 12% of its workforce without a job. The stock market has made modest gains in recent weeks, but none of that has trickled down to Main Street fast enough to make an appreciable difference. The Christmas shopping season is coming, but the last two years have been indicators of low spending and poor sales numbers.

Here’s the silver lining: this is an incredible time for opportunity if you position your business to take advantage of the economy.

Position your business for success in the months ahead by adjusting your viewpoint to focus on opportunities which the current economic environment has made available.

Focus on relationships rather than your product. Your business has always been about the people and it will always be about the people. Take this time to strengthen relationships with employees, customers and vendors. Strong relationships with employees will result in more productivity and referrals of good job candidates. Strong relationships with customers will result in more sales and more customer referrals. Strong relationships with vendors offer opportunities for better terms and better service.

Focus on creating value rather than making the sale.
A sale is nothing but a fleeting transaction, but value instills the buyer with a long-lasting appreciation. Value is also important in the hiring and retention of human capital. Concentrate on providing value in the employment experience and you will end up hiring better employees that will stay with you longer and return more value to your business.

Focus on moving forward rather than standing still.
When there is fear, people look for leaders. Employees want leaders that are seeing opportunities for continued growth. Customers want to see leaders that are responding to events in a positive way. In fact, when you focus on moving forward, your competition’s employees and clients will take notice and gravitate to you.

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