The Devastating Impact of the Great Recession

I recently came across this blog post “8 Tips to Survive an Economic Downturn” I wrote in the winter of 2009.  As you may recall, our economy at that point in time was in a free fall.  The banks were on the brink of collapse, the economy was losing 700,000 jobs a month and commercial real estate transactions had come to a complete halt. No one was buying or selling commercial real estate.  The recession was hitting hard.  Life at that moment looked bleak.  My blog post spoke to the fear we all felt at that time and hopefully it generated a bit of hope for the CRE professional who didn’t know when they would receive their next paycheck.

For the past several years the economy has been growing, albeit slowly.  But where is it headed in the foreseeable future?  There are indicators suggesting the U.S. economy is slowing down and we are only months away from our next recession.  If true now’s the time to prepare for it.  The time-proven principles outlined in this old blog post may be the key to surviving the pending recession.  Take a moment to enjoy their wisdom.


The downward spiraling of the economy…  No one knows where this is heading.  Not the experts, not those in high office, no one.  What’s worse:  there is very little you can do to minimize the carnage.

Here are some time-proven principles which, if applied, can help us out of this quagmire.

Go Back To the Basics

For those of us in any kind of sales profession, we learned the critical importance of marketing ourselves when we got started.  We learned the hard way that our ultimate success was dependent almost solely on how many marketing contacts we made each week.

Now the phone has stopped ringing.  What do we do?  We go back and do what made us successful in the first place.  Marketing has now become more critical than ever.

Stay Absolutely Focused

So-called “important” issues are often distractions from the overall point of focus for this year – to market like there is no tomorrow.  To do anything else will be a distraction from the immediate need to get business through the door.

What one thing do you need to do this year that will best help you survive?  Identify it, and forget all the distractions.

Determine What Differentiates You From Your Competition

Consider doing a brutally honest self-assessment about your product or service.  What core competency distinguishes you from your competition?  Conversely, what do you do that is no different than anyone else?

If you can’t differentiate your product or service from that of your competition you’re in deep trouble.  You end up being a commodity in the eyes of your clients; just one of many possible choices.  Focus on those things that make you unique.

Be 110% Committed To Your Career

I had a friend, years ago, who was in the same start-up struggle I was.  I remember him saying that if this did not work out he had another lucrative opportunity with a newly established dot-com company.  I told him I had no other plans.

My choice was to succeed as a commercial mortgage broker or fail miserably and utterly.  There was no other alternative.  Because I knew the consequences of failure I eventually succeeded.  It was a difficult struggle and took years to be successful but giving up was not an option for me.

It is very difficult to succeed in any profession or any endeavor if you are not 100% committed to it.

If Necessary, Redefine Yourself

Sometimes after you go through the self-assessment process you realize you’re not the problem, the market is.  If that is true for you, redefine yourself by finding a new market niche within your profession.

For example, a friend of mine works in the residential real estate market – which has been devastated by this slowdown.  But he’s surviving, having moved much of his business into the reverse mortgage industry, currently a lucrative market.

With every change in the economy there are winners and losers.  Find those clients who are in the most financial pain resulting from the poor economy.  They are the ones in need of assistance and they are motivated to make changes in their current situations.

Stay Positive!

Having a positive attitude, to me, is by far the single most important thing to focus on during difficult times.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid negative people.  We all know who they are.  Avoid them at all costs.
  • Quit watching the news.  Yes, a lot bad things are happening right now.  But how much of what we hear is overstated or incorrectly stated by the news media in order to create headlines and increase their own market share?
  • Don’t go it alone.  Find someone, or maybe more than one person, with whom you can share your deepest fears.  Don’t be a Lone Ranger.

Deep-Six What Doesn’t Work

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.  Have you been doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?  A bad economic downturn can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.  It can force you to make decisions that you’ve known in the back of your mind had to be made.

Don’t Give Up

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to the Stockdale Paradox, named after Vice Admiral James Stockdale.  While in a North Vietnamese prison, he encouraged his men to retain their absolute faith that they would prevail in the end regardless of their difficulties AND at the same time to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality.

Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties you face.  At the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

When all else fails, that attitude can carry one through many, many difficult times.  Don’t give up, no matter what.

This has, of course, been a recounting of my personal journey.  Many of these concepts are mine… many more are not.  But then, we all stand on the shoulders of someone.

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What do YOU think? Use the comments section below and share your experiences or advice on this topic.