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How to Fail in Business Without Really Trying
Business News New Jersey (January 28, 2002)

By Bruce Freeman

1991 was a tough year in the US economy. It was also the year I lost my job. I was determined at that point to do two things; start my own business, and report to only one boss for the rest of my career, the person I looked at each morning in the mirror while I shaved. There have been rough times and easier times in my 10+ years of self-employment, but what keeps me going are perspective and a sense of humor.

My maternal grandmother was a Russian born immigrant who fled her homeland because of religious persecution in the early 1900's. She raised her 5 children during the Great Depression of the 1930's. When I was young and was upset over something (minor in comparison to my grandparents' adversity) my grandmother would say to me, "Dalink, you only have two choices in this world; you can laugh or you can cry." Given recent world events, her words had great wisdom. At times it's appropriate to cry, but eventually you have to pick yourself up and get moving again. It is with that perspective and the memory of my grandmother's ability to laugh in the face of adversity that I present the 8 easy ways not to build your business in tough times.

        • Close the door to your office, put your feet up, hum old Beach Boys tunes, and remember the 90's as the "Glory Days". After all, this is no time to be proactive, think ahead or plan for the future, it's so much more fun to feel sorry for yourself and blame everything on the economy.

        • Whatever you do don't call up your best customers and strategic partners to see if there is anything you can do for them. Why bother cementing your relationships? Cement is for patios, not relationships.

        • Don't even try to build relationships with the press. There's no reason to get visibility for your product or service in slow times. You're so busy most of the day analyzing Judge Judy's decisions that you usually don't have time for talking to editors so why start now?

        • Don't go to trade shows or other industry events, unless it's to complain about the size of the shrimp. You never meet anybody worthwhile or learn anything useful at these things anyway, why waste your time?

        • Don't become a member, or better yet, an officer, of an industry association, or encourage colleagues to join industry groups. There's no profit in keeping your finger on the pulse of today's rapid business climate changes. Besides, you might get a reputation for being a pretty decent businessperson.

        • Don't try to improve yourself by going to a sales or technical training workshop. If you know your content and you're good looking, the world will come knocking at your door to buy your products and services.

        • Don't look for opportunities to build your business or branch out in a different way. I never saw a branch that didn't break off a tree.

        • Don't even think about updating your current logo, stationery or brochures, cleaning out your files or re-tooling any inefficient business process. Your logo of the dinosaur sitting by a typewriter is a clear indication of the new and innovative ideas you have to share.


All jokes aside, motivation is a serious thing when times are tough. If you, and by extension, your business are derailed by external climactic pressures, the consequences could be fatal. Now is the time to clean house, take stock and plan. Take the opportunities offered by slow times to cement relationships, improve yourself and your internal processes. Getting involved in a project will renew your sense of purpose and position you and your business for the better times that are around the next bend.


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