It used to be when you’d bump into friends and associates and ask how they were, the answer would always be a predictable “Great! How are you?” These days however, the return answer is more likely to be, “well, we’re surviving, or I haven’t sold anything in the past 6 months, or we’re really hurting, or even the worst, I lost my job!”

Today’s environment is rough, but there are things that a person can do differently to meet the new business environment with excitement and anticipation instead of with dread.

First of all, if you already serve a niche market and sell something like my friend Fred who sells pools, possibly think smaller. What other services or additions can you offer to the people who already HAVE pools? If people aren’t going to purchase that big ticket item for another year and you have to survive, what are you going to do to adjust… instead of going down with the ship like so many others? In order to get out of the box, try collaborating with former clients or customers who know you well and can offer a sound piece of advice. In addition to that, jump start this collaborative process by getting together with other companies you currently work with and share business. Between the bulk of you, there are likely to be some services that are not now available that jointly you can offer. Even if this is a short term solution, by getting out of the box and offering a service or product that is needed is a way to save the company from going down completely.

I am currently working with a large scale developer. His name is huge around town and he’s won all sorts of awards for the projects he’s developed. He has an eye towards sophistication and his projects have increased the value of the neighborhoods where they were built. This gentleman was a friend of mine from high school, and it’s been fun to work with him over the past few weeks and see how he has transformed his company because he’s not selling the condos that he built. He shared with me that the banks aren’t lending and current homeowners in his projects are underselling the new condos, so he’s losing money fast. I loved his quote that he shared with me, “that everyone these days is broke on different levels”.

My friend has taken an aggressive move to go back into remodeling and renovation. His new motto is no project is too small. We quickly created a “team” of professionals for him.. of kitchen and bath, insurance adjusters and of architects. He’s now set up to do emails and newsletters along with direct mail to reach the community at large. He’s got to let people know about his services and keep in their minds, just in case an opportunity becomes available.

Another “friend” is an architect… and yes I’ve gotten the two of them together! But because she’s not busy with drawing specs and plans now, she’s returned to pottery! She’ll more than likely do art shows and sell pieces to friends and wherever possible.

Another client is an insurance appraiser. He’s currently doing work, but not making as much $ as he could if he was on his own. So, he’s pursuing going out on his own and has a plan to launch by May.

Another client offers therapy services to customers and has a wide range of clients on a weekly. She’s created a resource chart for them to have at home, and we’re about to launch it nationally. It’s a chart that will tell parents how to deal with the kids at the moment they have a problem. What a brilliant idea, and for about $20 and the ability to get the word out nationally, she’s sure to create a new stream of income and to bring value to so many people in the process.

Most of my clients have gotten off their duffs and are networking like crazy! They’re making their mission known in the world of being available and hope to serve their customers with pleasure.

This new work environment has humbled us a bit. But perhaps we needed it. Were we too big for our britches? Were we getting complacent as a country?

As we move into 2009, the prospect for change and growth looks good. We have to do what we can to keep moving, keep active and keep hungry!

I love this quote by the Dr. Martin Luther King, an appropriate person today, MLK day, and quote during these challenging days: “ The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Lets get out there and show the world what American’s are made of… by surviving one challenge at a time!