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The upside of a down economy


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For months, we have been surrounded every day by doom and gloom. Constantly we are reminded of how the economy has weakened, consumer confidence is shattered, and fear is all around. So I have been thinking a lot lately about SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and the upside of a down economy.

In SWOT analysis, we say where there is a threat, there is usually an opportunity. So here is a list of the upsides of a down economy:

• Less of an entitlement attitude.

• More of a sense of humility

• A trend toward appreciating the simpler things in life

• Recommitment to jobs (even if only out of necessity)

• Realization that money does not grow on trees

• An awakening to reality instead of a “keep up with the Joneses” attitude

• Less talk about retiring early

• Focus on a long-term perspective professionally and personally

• Emphasis on faith and family

A few weeks ago, we asked an elder in our church to describe what it was like to live through the Great Depression. He said the positive aspects were the increased focus on family and faith. He said the Depression pulled people together and formed a stronger sense of community.

Baby Boomers have heard Depression stories from their parents and grandparents, but we did not anticipate our standard of living being so negatively affected by forces out of our control. Many of us felt that bigger was better, having more of everything was more valuable, and we wanted it sooner rather than later. The idea was to “retire” early and make sure we had a second home somewhere warm or in a destination location. The current situation is a chance to wake up and reassess our values and priorities.

I think Tom Brokaw said it best recently on MSNBC:

“We need to reset our economy rather than view this as a cycle. Now there is a heightened sense of consciousness of interconnectedness. People are realizing that we are all in this together. We have to reset our expectations, create a new kind of ethos and focus on values – what really matters.”

And if all of the reasons listed above are not convincing enough, one Midwestern company, Minnesota-based Hormel Foods Corp., is taking advantage of the opportunity presented by this down economy. Sales of Spam, invented during the Great Depression, are soaring!

Last fall, Jeffrey Ettinger, Hormel’s CEO, reported that Spam sales were increasing by double-digit percentages. The level of production was expected to continue indefinitely, with many workers putting in 12-hour shifts and some volunteering for even more to cash in on overtime pay. It also reminds us that it helps to keep a sense of humor in a down economy.

Jann Freed holds the Mark and Kay De Cook Endowed Chair in Leadership and Character Development at Central College in Pella.

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