“What are you scared of, Mommy?” It was a simple question, coming from a 3-year-old. He was looking for an answer like “gigantic centipedes” or “fire-breathing dragons.”

I didn’t disappoint--I mentioned big hairy spiders crawling on me in the dark. But that wasn’t the first answer that popped into my mind. How do you tell your 3-year-old that you’re afraid of the future?

If you’re a news junkie, like I am, then you already know that the sky is falling. Open any newspaper, pull up any mainstream news Web site or turn on your television, and you’ll likely encounter the words “economic crisis” in short order. Panic and fear are infectious and have been spreading quickly; the resulting carnage is evident in the excessive stock market volatility and the third-quarter drop in retail and auto sales, not to mention the continued decline in home prices. Large companies, including some surveying and engineering firms, have implemented substantial layoffs, and some smaller firms have closed their doors. Both large and small business owners have been struggling under the ever-tightening credit squeeze. The situation is serious, and it seems to be getting more so by the minute. It’s easy to succumb to the paralysis of worry when so much of what’s happening is completely beyond our control.

And that’s the problem--when we’re focused on all of the dire economic news in the world at large, we tend to miss the opportunities that are right in front of us.

Seth Godin, public speaker, business blogger and author of 11 best-selling business and marketing books, notes that “uncertain times, frozen liquidity, political change and poor astrological forecasts … all lead to less competition, more available talent and a do-or-die attitude that causes real change to happen. If I wasn’t already running my own business, today is the day I’d start one.”[1]

Larry Phipps, PLS, president of Land Surveyor’s Workshops in Jefferson, N.C., believes that the slowdown facing the surveying profession will extend into 2009 forcing many firms to do even more “belt tightening or restrategizing” in the coming months. But, he points out, “Times of great adversity are also times of great opportunity. There will be some firms who invest in software, equipment and themselves (through continued learning). These are the firms that will flourish.”

The popular media loves the drama--and the corresponding higher visibility and ratings--associated with any kind of calamity, so it’s no surprise that recent headlines and news stories about the economy have sounded so dire. And certainly all of us have been or are being affected by these events in some way. But allowing ourselves to be sucked into the pervasive pessimism is exactly the wrong approach. Instead, we should be focusing on positive strategies that we can implement within our own lives and businesses to weather the storm and ensure continued success.

No one knows when this current “economic crisis” might end. With any luck, by the time you read this, the moves made by the U.S., European and Asian governments in early October will have begun to take effect in the overall economy. I’m not counting on it--there’s too much uncertainty right now on too many different fronts. But what I do believe is that courage, resourcefulness and sheer determination will enable us to overcome virtually any obstacle.

As one poster onwww.RPLS.comrecently noted: “I plan on doing whatever it takes to make my small business survive the current situation. … Determination and ingenuity will be a key to survival. The vast majority of surveyors in this are really hurting, and a few have almost closed up shop. I believe that those of us who diversify and have little overhead will be in a good position when things pick back up.”

What are you afraid of in the current business climate, and how are you facing those fears? E-mail me your thoughts atpobeditor@bnpmedia.


1- Seth Godin’s blog,sethgodin.typepad.com, Sept. 27, 2008.

P.S. Want more insights on business strategies and industry trends? Visit www.pobonline.com for an online collection of our business-related columns as well as my new blog, Sight Lines. POB will also launch a new series of Webinars on business and technology topics in late January.

To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.