Succeeding in a Recession – Learn from the Mice

My wife, Julie, just came in to show me half a bar of chocolate that I’d left on the kitchen worktop earlier in the week.  It had tiny scratches all along the edge of it from, I’m guessing here, a mouse that must be “visiting” us at the moment.

Now, this isn’t too unusual, as we have a cat that loves to hunt but doesn’t like the kill.  Often he’ll bring in a mouse which we then release after capturing it with our humane mouse catcher, a brilliant device that catches the mouse without harming it and holds it so that we can release it back into the fields without harming it.  Maybe I’m too soft!

Anyway, what has this got to do with success, especially in tough times?  Well, when I saw that this mouse had been eating a chocolate bar – in fact, some expensive continental chocolate, it made me smile that this mouse was making the most of a tough time.  Imagine, you’re foraging about one day in the field and a cat grabs you in its mouth and brings you inside.  You escape but end up stuck in strange surroundings without food or drink.  I once found a dead mouse that had escaped and then died after staying frozen to the spot in a “safe” hiding place.

Surviving in a Recession

Trying to make a living while the economy is going through hard times is just the same.  You are picked up out of your comfort and dropped bang into the middle of an environment that needs you to think differently to survive.  If you just lie still and hope the danger will pass, you’ll end up like the dead mouse – unable to help yourself even.  Yesterday I learnt of a large financial services company that has gone into liquidation as a result of the credit crunch.  I met the owner back in January and he was quite upbeat about business.  Now he doesn’t have a business.  Just like the cat taking the mouse, he found himself in tough circumstances and didn’t change his habits fast enough.

In tough times, winners will be those people who are smart enough to go find the chocolate bar.  There’s a great book about how we react to change and how it helps or hinders us, called Who Moved My Cheese.  Coming from the same stable as The One Minute Manager series of books,  it’s a short book with a big theme – change with your circumstances or suffer the consequences.

So, in practical terms what can you do to change with your business circumstances at the moment?  If you are feeling under pressure at the moment, I recommend you start by

  1. Understand your numbers – keep a simple tally of how many enquiries, appointments, quotes and sales you are making.
  2. Figure out where you are losing sales and then try something new.
  3. Try some new marketing out – target a very specific niche group of potential customers (maybe by looking at your client list to spot your own best customers) and then figure out where they go, what they do, what they read, who they know, who else they buy from.  When you have figured out where to find them, you can market to them.
  4. Put some effort into a new marketing campaign, or get some help to develop a new campaign, including identifying your target market, by sending an email via my contact page.
  5. Make sure your activity levels are AT LEAST as busy as in the good times – make lots of calls, talk to customers, prospects, contacts.  Do enough “stuff” and you’ll get results.

Until next time, get busy and stay happy on your chocolate hunt!


  1. Shama Hyder on June 21st, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    In terms of marketing during a recession, I would suggest moving dollars away from ads to educational marketing. Educate your clients so they don’t feel your services are a risk.

  2. Lee on June 21st, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Hi Shama,

    Great point, education as a marketing approach is very under-used, perhaps because of the effort and thought required to do it.

    One of my clients sells timber-glazed sash windows. By educating their customers and potential customers to the practical benefits of their product, they can maintain a full order book for months ahead of time.

    Good stuff!


Leave a Comment