This one is from my friend and client, Kevin Johnston, CMP, CEO of Advantage Event Group.

In difficult times, how we view the present and the future often dictates our actions and reactions. Accident prone people often draw attention due to their “bad luck.” When we wake up on the “wrong side of the bed” do we not view things negatively throughout the day? Rhetorical questions, I know, but are we not what we think we are?

Current industry conditions: Good or Bad? Research shows that our industry is cyclical. The pendulum swings from buyers market to sellers every seven or eight years or so. PricewaterhouseCoopers details this “cycle” in a very concise Hospitality report that is used by hoteliers and hotel owners to assist them in purchasing and forecasting. They, fairly accurately, predict trends and forecast when there will be ups and downs. So what? How prepared are you (were you) for any downturn?

Reinventing ourselves is an often touted solution. Thinking “outside the box” is easy…if you are an outside the box type of person. That process does not come naturally to some, especially in this industry. Good planners are paid to fit details tightly inside a box. A specific box, with a specific dimension, at a specific cost. Sales and marketing types are taught to sell the box, but not to dwell on what is going in it, what color it is, or even who will pay for it or when it will arrive. There is a real similarity between these two types of people…they are only successful when they work together. Independent planners suffer most in an economic downturn. They are often so good at the detail that they can’t get comfortable in an “outside the box” sales or promotion arena that draws business to them or their company. Networking at cocktail events doesn’t count.

We are creatures of habit. We do what is comfortable and don’t do what makes us feel uneasy. And we are taught what we know from childbirth. Henceforth the reference to Mother Goose. We all recall Old Mother Hubbard, who went to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. Every time I hear that rhyme I think, someone should have told her to look somewhere else! You might say she needed to think “outside the box” or cupboard.

Looking for business or opportunities in the same places, with the same people may be rewarding in an up economy. But with more entrepreneurs being force to start their own shops, forsaking old ways may be a key to financial survival. You may have to re-tool. Don’t focus on what you do, focus on what clients want and need. Spend time to develop relationships with those that can be engaged in a partner type roll. You find that there are synergies with many different companies or people that can open doors and create new client relationships. Planners partnering with producers, registration and web/communication companies, and vice versa. Often planners can create business opportunities and create cost effective solutions for clients when aligning themselves with complimentary services. You have to be able to show clients how you can “find your fee” through savings that they otherwise not realize.

Take time to hone skills when business is slow. Learn how to better create budget templates by taking free Microsoft online training. Work on your presentation materials. Research competition web sites to learn how to better present yourself and your company. Read a book on how to boost your confidence and sell yourself in adverse conditions.

Successful people form the habits that failures never do. It’s very simple, and it’s continually proven…”If you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” Get up, quit looking in that empty cupboard, pick up the phone and partner up.

Kevin R. Johnston, CMP | CEO

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