Staying Positive in a Negative World, part 2

March 18, 2009
This is the second in a series of articles by Matt Michel about how to stay positive when we’re surrounded by bad news and negativity. If you missed the first article, click here to read it.

This is the second in a series of articles by Matt Michel about how to stay positive when we’re surrounded by bad news and negativity. If you missed the first article, click here to read it.

Don’t Buy

With all of the doom and gloom, what can you do? DON’T BUY IN!

When you accept the media’s message, you risk making it a self-fulfilling prophesy. You risk spiraling down and taking your business with you. We largely get what we expect. Expect doom and you’ll get it. Expect to prosper despite the economy and you’ll find a way. Recently on the Service Roundtable, Michigan contractor, Joel Wensley, commented on the negative news…

Even here in Michigan, where the unemployment rate is high, there are still millions of people working. I for one choose to look at the glass half full.

About three or four months ago, when all I was hearing was bad news, I finally made a decision to turn off the news in my car and in my home. I don’t allow myself to focus on bad news any longer. In conversations with people I keep control and don’t allow it to go south. I don’t want to hear it. When others are talking doom and gloom I simply walk away.

I am focused on growth and I refuse to participate in this recession. Nor will I let it control me or my thoughts. In six months or so from now everyone will have forgotten how bad it supposedly was anyway, so why embellish this line of thinking.

Yes I recognize that things are tougher out there, you'd have to be a complete idiot to at least not recognize it but you just can’t let it consume you. It will make you physically sick.

I remember reading something from Matt Michel, (Surviving a Slowdown). The article said that it might take hard work and if everyone put forth 5% more effort that it would payoff. He was dead on. It was after reading that article that I made the decision not to participate.

At the end of September we were still on my "stupid" target to only be down 10% in gross sales from 2007. What a stupid line of thought. Why would anyone in their right mind plan on failing or plan some sort of failure?

Needless to say after changing my thinking I went at it hard, and we finished the year 4% over 2007 and we are on pace for a record January and 1st quarter.

I think just by being positive and walking around with a permanent smile on my face it has had some effect. People think I'm up to something and I love it. I have responded several times this week to the old "how are you doing" with "if I were any better I'd be on vacation."

A lot of contractors I talk with are truly frightened, and with reason. Some are going turtle, which is the worst possible response. When it’s harder to find customers, you should increase your efforts to find them, not pull back.

Contractors fail and succeed in good times as well as bad. While the economy can help or hinder, it’s not the most important factor in a company’s success. The most important factor is you. Remember, people tend to get what they expect. Employees and customers tend to reflect the attitudes and actions of the owner. Recession or not, you can prosper. You can refuse to participate.

Last week St. Louis contractor, Steve Miles, told me his business was up 5%. I know other contractors who are doing well and not participating in the recession.

Some are shifting their focus. They are beefing up their service departments. They are adding additional products and services. They are expanding into new markets. They are choosing to grow.

You also have a choice to make. You can choose to react badly. Or, you can choose to respond positively.

Recently, I was fascinated to read a blog post by Dave Chase, the Chief Marketing Officer of Altus Alliance. Chase noted that historically, companies that acted aggressively during tough economic times were not affected by the contraction. Look at what has to say about the ways different companies responded to the Great Depression…

To begin, not all was doom and gloom during the Great Depression. It was a time when those who knew what they were doing made great economic strides, and the very nature of the Depression was an economic boon for them. It was a time when several companies benefited from aggressive marketing while their rivals cut back. A good example of that would be Kellogg besting C.W. Post during that time. Consumers didn't stop spending during the Depression; most just looked for better deals, and the companies providing those better deals came out stronger after the Depression ended. When spending picked up, consumer loyalty to those companies remained.

Generally speaking, those companies that not only survived but also thrived during the Great Depression were those that continued to act as though there were nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend. In other words, they advertised. These are industries that didn't wait for public demand for their products to rise. They created that demand even during the most difficult of times.

Because so many companies cut spending during the Great Depression era, advertising budgets were largely eliminated in many industries. Not only did spending decline, but some companies actually dropped out of public sight because of short-sighted decisions made about spending money to keep a high profile. Advertising cutbacks caused many customers to feel abandoned. They associated the brands that cut back on advertising with a lack of staying power. This not only drove customers to more aggressive competitors, but it also caused financial mistrust when it came to making additional investments in the no-longer-visible companies.

Both anecdotal and empirical evidence support the case that advertising was the main factor in the growth or downfall of companies during the Great Depression. To put it bluntly, the companies that demonstrated the most growth and that rang up the most sales were those that advertised heavily.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, an alliance of HVAC and plumbing contractors. For just $50, contractors receive access to millions of dollars of downloadable, customizable, sales, marketing, and business tools that are certain to grow your sales, build your bottom line, and give you more time for your family. Give it a try. Matt says he’s “positive” you’ll like it. If you would like to contact Matt, you can reach him at [email protected], toll free at 877.262.3341, or on his mobile at 214.995.8889. You can subscribe to his Comanche Marketing newsletter at

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.