Things May Get Worse Before They Get Better

“I walk firmer and more secure uphill than down.” – Montaigne, Michel

The stock market took a dive yesterday. Internet resolutions to hold and buy stocks failed to thwart the flood of panicked sellers. Airline stocks crashed. Thousands of workers were laid off. At least one airline has shut down and, according to friends in the industry, it’s only a matter of weeks till there are other closings and more layoffs.

BS, the guy who drives me to the airport, has been essentially unemployed for a week. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to get a lot better any time soon,” he says. The cabbie who picked me up at BWI airport yesterday said I was his second fare for the day.

I’ve spent two days talking to publishers and CEOs about damage control. Most have ceased their current marketing and have put the rest of their plans on hold. Many are considering cutbacks and are looking to cut expenses wherever they can. Two businesses I advise that were about to launch new products postponed their plans. And the results I’ve seen from promotions that have gone out in the last few days have been very bad.

For at least a year, I’ve been advising you to prepare for tough times. Well, I think they are here. Expect to see more closed businesses, more layoffs, lower wages, and lower profits almost everywhere you look. Expect to hear stories of stock market savings completely eaten up.

What should you do?

1. First, do everything I’ve said in the past two days to prepare yourself emotionally and intellectually. Imagine the worst-case scenarios and prepare for them. Spend your time developing your personal strengths and skills. Maintain a positive attitude. Don’t complain. Take a leadership role.

2. Postpone any new product or business launches until you get a feel for the market.

3. Continue to market, but on a vastly reduced scale. Consider everything you do to be a new test. Spend money conservatively, but continue to spend it on new customers unless the results are so poor that you can’t break even, even over the long run.

4. Share information with your colleagues and competitors, especially indications about buying patterns.

5. Think about what your customers need now. How can your product/service be adapted to meet those needs?

6. Stay strong. Think smart. Act wisely.

Tough times create opportunities — for individuals to show their strength of character and for businesses to provide new, useful services. There is no doubt that despite the troubles ahead, this will be such a time.

Whatever happens at the governmental level is — at least in an immediate and pragmatic sense — beyond your control. What you can control is how you react to the specific problems you face now. How you react to those problems, what opportunities you seize right now, will determine your personal future.

Fix what you can fix right away and prepare for what you can’t. Stay positive. Be prudent. Maintain your strength.

Do these things and you will come out ahead of the pack. So will our country.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]