It ceased to amaze me a long time ago how easy it was to manipulate the rank and file in society and, with enough marketing guile, be able to influence what they say and do (today is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht), but what still astonishes me is how the supposedly smartest and best educated minds, be they politicians, journalists, bankers or businesspeople, also assume the same herd mentality.
Last year the Consensus was that anybody who suggested a laissez-faire running of the economy with expenditure outstripping earnings would result in a spectacular crash landing was dismissed as being misguided at best and insane at worst. The good times would roll on forever and it was preposterous to prepare for any economic downturn. So you had Wall Street’s five biggest firms – Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley – paying a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves. Our own sector, the internet, was far less spoilt, but there were a few web 2.0 businesses, marketing agencies and networks hiring ever increasing numbers of staff at ever increasing salaries in ever larger offices; indeed, despite making about as much net profit with 40 staff as individual super affiliates would do from their home offices, they would sometimes blow so much money on parties that it made the self-congratulatory revelry of the dot.com boom years seem positively restrained.
Now, barely 18 months later, these same people ‘in the know’ have changed their tune and are proselytising doom and gloom. We are supposedly heading into the worst recession since the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Apparently we must all preach that the number of people shopping either offline or online will drop to such an extent that no business will ever make a penny in profit for years. The same journalists who for the last ten years were enticing their readers to use their credit cards to buy new designer clothes every month and splash out on holidays to distant lands with radiant sunsets are now filling their column inches with penny-pinching tips egging their readers to turn off their car engines as they drive downhill and reuse their dental floss.
There are people – admittedly a minority – who do not live their lives or run their businesses as per Groupthink: they did things differently in the supposed boom years and their businesses are doing better than ever now. When I was being interviewed on Sky News last Saturday (video clip below) the presenter expected me to tow their official line which is to moan about how we were all struggling to make a profit.
But the client who I was representing, V A C Media, and I have always ran our enterprises based on our own intellects and analyses, not what the Consensus states. As a result things have never been better. When I told the interviewer “sales are going through the roof,” which counteracted the corrosive pessimism that Sky News has been feeding its viewers for the last several months, she claimed I was “talking up” my client’s business. She may have found it difficult to comprehend that V A C Media is managed by a CEO who does not run his company by whichever modus operandi the ‘experts’ are telling managers to operate by in a particular season, and hence Froggybank.co.uk and his other 179-odd websites are thriving.
Much has been written about Barack Obama’s historic victory in the American elections, but one thing we should all take away is that he is a man who has always lived life on his own terms. Not having had the parental support and love that many enjoy, he has had to define his own path in life. It would have seemed unattainable for somebody from his background to study at Columbia and Harvard, to become the President of the Harvard Law Review, to be elected a Senator, and to hold the position of the most powerful person on the planet, and most folk would have followed less daunting avenues deemed more suitable for the son of a Kenyan immigrant. But Obama has little time for received wisdom: he has always navigated his own way through the choppy waters of life. And that is a lesson for us all.
Yes, there has been and will be blood on the floor in this recession, but slumps also create tremendous opportunities for canny people. For instance, starting-up and developing a business is cheaper because there are empty offices on the market, tools costs less, skilled staff can be recruited at lower salaries and marketing is less pricey.
So don’t listen to people who are like feathers in the wind and now encouraging you to throw in the towel because nobody will make money for the next x years. If Obama can be elected President only four years after becoming a Senator, then our businesses can be successful in an economic downturn. We need to throw off the shackles of the defeatist mentality that we are being indoctrinated to adopt, roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Yes We Can.
Blog Update: the 19th century quotation competition winners have been contacted and will be announced in the next five days.