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When Everyone Else Is Playing Defense, Play Offense

November 25, 2022

Free Selective Focus Photography of Two Men Playing American Football Stock Photo

You need to score to win at anything in life, and to score, you need to play offense!


I don’t know what’s happened to the mindset of the average business leader these days. I’m well aware that they’re bombarded with lots of information, most of it negative about the state of the economy, our political process, global instability, the overall market for talent, etc.  However, they never would have started their business in the first place if they got caught up in all the obstacles involved in being successful in business. When you launch your own company, you are going against the odds anyway. All you can do is give it your best shot and believe in your individual capacity to navigate whatever challenges come your way. First and foremost, entrepreneurs are optimists.


I wish it wasn’t true but there seems to be a lot of money in scaring people and giving them something to fear. I guess we all pay more attention when we hear “the sky is falling” than when we hear that things are going well. The most interesting for me this past year or so in business, is how frequently so-called experts contradict themselves and change their opinions based on the whims of the marketplace or the vagaries of large company leadership behavior. I am always wondering, “What’s their angle?” I’ve literally heard people say that we’re on the cusp of the worst recession ever at one point and then not that much later talk about a soft landing for the economy. I’ve learned to take what I hear with a “grain of salt” and carefully check the source that’s saying it.  Often, I choose to ignore the noise altogether.  In my humble opinion, it’s always better to focus on what you can control versus what you can’t, which is most of that media focuses on.


The reality is that high performing organizations often grow more aggressively during downturns. While everyone else is treading water, they’ve planned for this moment and have the management prowess, financial liquidity, and risk appetite to seize opportunities. They understand that talent may be more readily accessible when everyone else is it freezing hiring or scaling back.  Vendors are often more willing to negotiate better terms when they are worried about their own survival.  Banks still need to lend money to make money and are looking to consolidate their risk into better-run companies and more thoughtful business strategies.  Consumers rarely scale back completely and value quality and stability more when their purchasing power is limited. In addition, colleagues who haven’t planned as well or are operating from a place of scarcity, will often pull the exit trigger and look for another way out.  2023 will be full of business opportunity. If you are looking for it!


I love it when President Biden says that “it’s never been a good bet to bet against America.” I completely agree. Just look at the state of our economy and business environment compared to everyone else. There is something special about this country when it comes to leaning into a challenge and turning difficulty into opportunity. We should never forget this. Now is not the time to be scared as a business owner. Now is not the time to be indecisive and risk adverse. If you believe you are running a good company with a strong culture and a sound financial position, then leverage the current business environment and go for it.  Strive to gain market share and strengthen your competitive position.


If you don’t believe me, then listen to Warren Buffet: “The best chance  to deploy capital is when things are going down,”  and “…Be fearful when everyone else is greedy, be greedy when everyone else is fearful.”  His most successful years have been when others have run for cover.


If you don’t have the stomach for the “ups and downs” of business cycles and have limited leadership capacity for dealing with uncertainty and adversity, then maybe it is time to pack it in or downsize.  It’s relatively easy to do well in a “Bull Market” economy (although some people manage to screw this up). To some degree, “a rising tide does lift all boats.” You will find out what you are made as a leader and business in a “Bear Market” environment, when most competitors in your marketplace are struggling and their business weaknesses are exposed.


Life always tests how bad we want something and the effort we are willing to put forth to make it happen.  This is why most novels are full of “rags to riches” stories and history books provide countless examples of leaders who overcame great obstacles to achieve their objectives.  Believe in yourself and your organization’s ability to win right now.  Play offense!