Why The Bad Economy Is Good For You

(Also listen to the audio at the end of this article)


The economy is getting bad, they tell you.
The economy is getting worse, they tell you.
The implosion is about to come, they tell you.

And Leo Burnett would laugh (or at the very least, softly chuckle).

Leo, who?
It was the Great Depression. The economy had done exactly what everyone said it would. It tanked. And it was at this very point, that Leo decided to leave New York. Now, this may not seem very relevant to you, except for the fact that New York was the advertising capital of the United States. It was New York or Hicksville.

Well, at least ‘Hicksville’ in the advertising world.

Well, Leo didn’t care
He moved to Chicago. And not only did he move, but he set up his own advertising agency, with his own principles, and his own sense of above-standard ethics. And his competition jeered.

They pointed to the people selling apples on the street.

“You’ll soon sell apples on the street”, they mocked with one voice
“Not only will I not sell apples,” said Leo,”but I will give them away.” Leo refused to bow down. Instead he believed in himself, and put in more effort than ever before. And Leo Burnett went on to grow one of the largest advertising agencies in the world: The Leo Burnett Agency.

And eighty years or so later, that agency–formed at the core of the Great Depression–is still going, and going, and going.

And that’s because Leo refused to bow down.

So are you bowing down?
You should be. If you read the newspapers, they’re telling you it’s all kaput. If you listen to the news, it’s pretty much ditto.

And even if you escaped all that, there are at least half a dozen emails in your in-box reminding you about beefing up your knowledge; perhaps attending a workshop so that you can rise above the imploding economy.

And yucky as it sounds, those emails are right
When times get tougher, it’s not time to be bowing and scraping. It’s time to do exactly what the masses are not doing. And the masses are masses, because they all act alike. They’re all scared witless, and all cutting back. And if you want to be with the masses, then you’ll be cutting back too.

Which is what I’d do every June and July
June and July were officially the ‘thunderstorm’ months of the year, way back in 1997. They were also the worst months of the year in 1998. And 1999, as you would expect. My business (which was cartooning back then) would sputter. It would stall.

And I’d sit witless in my office, having to pay staff who had little or nothing to do. And I’d moan and groan about how life was unfair. Till I had a little conversation with my mother.

“You should spend the quiet months, getting ready for the not-so-quiet months,” she said. “You won’t get anywhere with that moping. And you won’t get any smarter.” Luckily I took her advice. Every time the ‘bad months’ came along, we’d spend time learning, and educating ourselves.

I’d buy new software, new hardware, and do a lot of self-education through books, materials and workshops. The staff would spend time improving their skills, and getting ready for the ‘thunderstorm’ to pass

And eventually it would pass
And the work would flow in by the truckloads. And we’d be better placed in terms of hardware, software and capabilities. And it was all because we didn’t care to follow the masses.

The masses are still moaning.
They’re still telling you that the economy is getting bad.
They’re still telling you that it’s going to get worse.
They’re talking about implosion.

And you’ve got a choice
You can buckle down, and cower.
Or you can do what Leo Burnett did.
Learn. Spend more time upgrading your skills.

And you don’t have to buy anything
Use the public library.
Borrow information from friends, if you have to. And if you can, invest in new hardware, software, and especially upgrade your skills.

Because the storm will pass. It has to!
Yes, the economy may be tanking, but things will change. And when it does, you’ll come out smarter, and better placed than everyone else.

Ask Leo. He not only didn’t end up selling apples like everyone on the street, but he actually gave them away. So if you were to walk into a Leo Burnett agency anywhere in the world today, you’ll be guaranteed to see a bowl of apples at the reception. And yes, you can have it, absolutely free!

Pick it up. And eat it.
Taste the depression. And the method to rise above that depression.

And as you crunch into that apple, somewhere in the heavens, Leo will softly chuckle.

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  1. says

    I agree with what you say most of the time. But I especially agree with what you say here! The “bad economy” has been extremely good for my business.

    1st I’m an auctioneer so there is a lot of activity as many people are selling off contents and liquidating.

    2nd There are always people looking to take advantage of this factor, so activity is very high. Prices may be down a bit, but activity is tenfold.

    Thanks Sean!

  2. says

    Good point, Sean. The incessant negative news is one reason I’ve gone on a news fast. Nice memories, too. I almost went to work for Leo B right after college, but took another position instead. One question: Are they still giving away apples in the LB lobby?

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