Friday, June 5, 2009

Investing for success

Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Where do you want your business to be after this harsh recession and how bold do you plan to be in achieving that goal?"

That's the question posed by Nelson Davis on as he recounts the pitched competition between cereal company rivals W. K. Kellogg and C. W. Post in Battle Creek, Michigan, during the 1930s. Their story is a classic illustration of the adage that one cannot cost-cut one's way to survival and success during tough times. Traction and dominance in the marketplace follow from investments in products and their marketing.

Michael Kaiser, the so-called arts-turn-around guru who now leads the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, has long voiced the mantra "Good art, well marketed."

Many artists and their organizations will not survive the current recession and, indeed, many of them should proactively cash in what few chips they have. I have been working with several excellent artists in recent months, however, who are just warming to the challenges before them.

I have been telling them to do what they must in order to "survive," and to use this time to plan and position themselves for the recovery: order their financial processes, build their networks, hone their artistic craft to an engaging excellence, and own their niche with the most effective visibility.

With 10% of America's workforce now under- or unemployed, individuals can adapt the same advice to their own particular circumstances. It is not always a pretty effort, as the Kellogg-Post story showed, but it is a necessary one, and a part of life's grand adventures.

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