When theeconomy is in high gear, it's easy to stick with best businesspractices and carefully considered risks. But when times get tough, youmay become pressured to make deals you normally wouldn't. Of course,when money is tight, it is prudent to consider some compromises.Beware, though, of crossing the fine line between prudence anddesperation — you could well do long-term damage to your businessand your reputation, and you might not be able to recover when theeconomy does.
Companies and individuals can respond to hard times in a variety ofways — some wise, and some dangerous. One dangerous response isto get so aggressive that you become unpleasant and even undesirable todo business with. For example, one company pulled its ads in an issuebecause it didn't win an Editors' Choice Award. That sort of knee-jerkthinking does not build positive business relationships for the longhaul.
Another danger is sacrificing long-term interests to gain short-termadvantages. For example, a company might lay off specialized staff tomeet budget goals, but if it goes too far, it will lack the talent tomove forward when the economy recovers.
Furthermore, in hard times, people are tempted to do things theywould normally consider unethical or immoral. For instance, would youproduce a soundtrack for a porn project if you had moral objections toporn? What if your financial picture was dire and the pay was good?It's gut-check time.
In magazine publishing, the pressures to take unethical actions canbe quite direct. Sometimes a hard-pressed advertiser demands that werun only positive coverage of its products. The pressures can also besubtle. In the past year, revenues have been down for all of themusic-tech magazines, resulting in budget cuts. In that context, if amanufacturer pulls its ads because of a lukewarm product review, theresult could be further cuts and even layoffs for us. The advertiserdoesn't even have to say anything; with some companies, we know thethreat is there. Some magazines give in to such pressures, althoughthey won't admit it. We simply won't do it, no matter what therepercussions might be.
It ought to be gut-check time for manufacturers who generate thesepressures, too. A well-targeted, credible magazine is an importantadvertising vehicle, and if advertiser-imposed economic pressuresreduce a magazine's ability to maintain quality, people will eventuallyquit reading the magazine. That means the advertiser will lose animportant way to reach potential customers.
Here, it is important to remember that a down economy actuallypresents a good opportunity to reinvest in your company, so you will becompetitive when the crunch ends. It's also a time to think creatively,to find fresh marketing and sales approaches that don't cost a lot ofmoney.
Whether you are operating a studio, a band, a magazine, or a widgetfactory, the bottom line is not just the number on the spreadsheet. Italso includes doing business in a sensible, ethical, and just way. Yes,times are tough; let's use that as incentive to draw on our creativityand to find our inner strength so we can stay the course.