Adversity Builds Character

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.
– Blake

ABC: Always Be Closing. No, wait, wrong acronym. I meant: Adversity Builds Character.

Human beings are remarkably adaptable. We can adapt to some very adverse conditions, oftentimes growing stronger as a result. Take children as an example. Children who grow up in somewhat dirty environments tend to have stronger immune systems, while those in pristine environments find themselves getting sick easily as adults, as Kent Sepkowitz writes in “Eat Crap” (I would have called the article “Eat Shit and Live”, but might not have liked that).

The same can be said of companies. So here are five adverse conditions that can strengthen and build character in a company:

  1. Not Enough Customers

    If you can’t find enough customers, then you will have to focus on satisfying and delighting the few customers you do have. Go above and beyond with stellar customer service. Not only will they love you for this, but they will be a useful source of suggestions and improvements too. Happy customers are a fantastic marketing tool.

  2. Not Enough Money

    If you can’t make enough money, then you will have to operate frugally and be intelligent with your expenses. Many a start-up has failed because it was too fat with cash and never learned how to be financially disciplined. Fortunately, you won’t have this problem. In fact, some experts believe that this is the smartest way to start a business.

  3. Not Enough Employees

    If you can’t recruit enough talented people, then you and your small staff can pitch in and do whatever it takes to succeed. All of you will learn a wide variety of skills, allowing for a cross-pollination of skills and potentially new efficient practices. This also tightens your staff into a finely-tuned team.

  4. Too Many Competitors

    If you have all these sharks circling the waters you, then you will have to learn how to walk on water. Having too many competitors means you’ll need to learn how to differentiate and offer something everyone else doesn’t. Competitors are good this way because they can keep you on your toes.

  5. Shrinking Market

    If your market is shrinking, then you will have to branch out to new markets. Even if the few customers you have left are utterly delighted, if the customers no longer need your solution, then you will need to solve a new problem for them. Take stock of your strengths, look for a more feasible market, and reposition yourself.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

2 thoughts on “Adversity Builds Character”

  1. “You see this watch? You see this watch? That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing. Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here – close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don’t like it, leave.”

    Man I love that movie.

Comments are closed.