“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
“Go higher and higher, until it becomes impossible to bring you down, I wanna use a microscope to locate you, don’t even dream of coming down.”
Michael Bassey Johnson
Business, in general, has a wacky way of talking about bad news & ‘less-than-positive’ business information. In business, and Life I imagine on occasion, we look at down in some fairly absurd ways using voodoo math, clever graphs and … well … some dubious comparisons all to prove that down is actually up.
It has to be voodoo – math or graphics — to show both down AND up.
No shit. Really.
To them … well … Down isn’t down, it is really up <if only my bank balance could implement that math>.
Unemployment is down this month <but its still up versus a year ago>.
Sales are down <but it’s up versus the rest of the category>.
Our new product is losing money <but we are getting new customers>.
And maybe the most famous ‘up is down’ scenario … “we have cut our spending but get more with what we have!” <always be very very leery of this one>.
Let’s be clear.
In business when is down, well, up?
(Answer to that question) ………. NEVER.
Down is down.
Down is bad.
Down is never the objective.
If I hear this one more time in one more conference room my head will explode:
“… well Mr. Giraffenee, it’s a tough economy right now. The category is trending downward at 11%, but we are only down 5%. So we are doing well in a tough category. In fact … <insert pregnant pause here> … we are actually up when you look it that way.”
— people staring at powerpoint looking serious … “hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …” —
(Mr. Giraffeney after a minute or so)
“So our sales are down … but not really down? I love it!”
What a load of bullshit.
To me negative is down. And bad <because it isn’t up>.
To be fair it is easy to talk your way into the down but not really down rabbit hole of economic unreality <in fact … I say hanging my head sheepishly … I have done it myself years ago>. It is often a self-preservation, program preservation, technique <albeit a slightly dubious one>. Today’s management seems intent on finding something wrong to fix, someone to blame and some reason they will not look good. making down look up can be an effective way to protect a good long term idea in the short term <sad but true>.
To be fair It is extremely easy to justify ‘down but not down’ by saying if people aren’t spending, it must be ok that they are not spending with us. It is extremely easy to say if times are tight than that must be the reason they don’t value our brand as much <or any brand>. It’s a tough competitive world out there and it never hurts to remind everyone it is a tough competitive world.
To be fair … It is important to note that a person might not know he/she is doing something he/she shouldn’t do. Training in today’s business world is pitiful. Teaching people how to tell the tough truths, the harsh truths, is almost nonexistent.
It may be easy to fall into this ‘down is up’ double speak, but it is bullshit.
Up is up.
Growth is always the goal. And if you are not growing you are dying.
Here is something to chew on <a business truth as it were>.
A truth with no caveats on market status, economic challenges or budget constraints.
Business is out there.
People are buying stuff.
And there are plenty of people buying stuff.
Plenty of businesses are gaining market share and there are a boatload of profitable companies <flush with cash by the way>. And there are a lot of companies with increased sales. And there are a lot of growing companies.
The truth is that we have an extremely robustly sized economy out there my friends. When people talk about ‘shrinking economy’ or ‘shrinking industry’ … don’t laugh too hard in their faces … size is relative. No reasonable business is in an industry with only $100 dollar available and it is shrinking by $5.
Sales and growth are out there for the taking.
Note: while I originally wrote this during the ‘great depression’, fundamentally, this is true during the pandemic. while economies have clearly shrunk, people are still spending money. Every business should have the objective of ‘they should be spending it on me.”
I say all this because it can be easy to justify doing what you are doing a variety of ways and saying down isn’t really down is a way a lot of people do so.
Up is attainable.
Growth opportunities are always there.
You may just have to be a little smarter to get it. “Smarter” almost always resides in appealing to consumer needs without losing sight of the fact you have to make money … profit. You cannot <and should not> discount your way to success. That path is a very slippery slope not only from consumer attitudes perspective <defining how they value you>, but it is also puts a massive strain on profitability <which impacts the organization like a bad ripple effect>.
You have to be smart and insightful with how you talk with people you want to buy your stuff. Maybe you need to seek a new role, or a differently defined role, that is more vital and easier for consumers to rationalize. And, god forbid, tell the truth & have something worth paying for.
Here is a fact.
People will spend against need – real or perceived. They also search for value, but that doesn’t mean people will not spend premiums for quality. Or spend more money for a heightened sense of perceived need <which is actually a “want” if I was going to be technical with myself>.
Look at SUVs, Starbucks <where they are open drive thru lines are nonstop>, Apple and Whole Foods markets <I could point out a shitload of under-the-radar businesses but you wouldn’t know who the are>.
All doing quite well thank you very much.
All ain’t the cheapest shit out there.
This is simply finding growth under pressure … and under existing market conditions.
Harsh truth for everyone? Persistent sales stagnation is most likely a reflection of how people perceive needing what you have to offer more so than it is “the economy.”
(sorry to burst anyone’s excuse bubble with that)
If you want to look at the larger economic situation go ahead, but do so by just accepting an attitude that the economy’s growth is going to be minimal at best, with the risk of another sharp downturn very real, and quit whining and go out and find a way to grow. Businesses must not stop their quest for growth even in ‘bad times’ nor should they stop their quest under the guise that ‘well we were down … but not really.’
Here is one thing I can promise you about growth companies.
In every case, there are a group of people in that company that see things not just as they are, but as they could be.
And then they go out and get it.
I guess I wrote this to warn people about people who stand up and say “we had a good year … we are not down as much as everyone else or the category.”
Down is never up.
And, by the way, up is attainable. Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow. No excuses.
I guess I wrote this to suggest to businesses that the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Go get some market share.