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I Refuse to Participate in the Recession!

Mindset has a lot to do with how one navigates a tough economy successfully. 

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I started BNI in 1985. Since then, I’ve navigated my company through three recessions, and we have now entered our fourth  since the mid-'80s. Along the way, I’ve learned that mindset has a lot to do with how one navigates a tough economy successfully. 

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

This first became clear to me when I was at a large networking event during the recession of the early '90s. As I walked around the room, I discovered that almost everyone was completely fixated on how horrible things were. It was incredibly depressing. I found myself meandering until I saw someone standing in a corner observing all the distraught business people in attendance.

I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked him what he did.  He told me he was in real estate. I prepared myself for the onslaught of horror stories, but instead, he said that things were going really well for him.    

Naturally, I was surprised and replied, "You said you were in real estate, right?"

"Yes," he said.

I asked, "The real estate market has dropped significantly here, hasn’t it?"

"Yes," he said with a slight grin.

"And you're having a good year?"

"I'm actually having my best year ever!"

"Your best year!" I said in amazement. After thinking for a moment, I asked him, "Is this your first year in real estate?"

"No," he replied with a laugh. "I've been in real estate for almost 10 years."

I asked him how he could be doing so well, given the condition of the economy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a big button that read: "I Absolutely Refuse to Participate in the Recession!"

“That’s it? You have a button that says, 'I absolutely refuse to participate in the recession,' so business is booming?" I exclaimed.

“Well, it’s not just the button; it’s the attitude that goes along with it,” he told me. “You see,” he went on to explain, “during difficult times, there are almost always opportunities that exist, and if you want to succeed, you have to focus on those opportunities.”

“OK,” I said. “School me a little on this. What kind of opportunities can there really be right now when the real estate market has taken a nose dive?” 

“Two big ones,” he replied. “First, there are real estate investors who buy properties to rent and lease. I’m going to them and encouraging, ‘Don’t be one of those people who come to me a few years from now and say that you should have bought that property when I showed it to you. Let me show you a duplex that you can get at a steal on today’.” He paused to take a sip of his water, and then continued, “In addition, there are still first-time home buyers in a down economy. I’m going to them right now and explaining that they couldn’t afford a house a year ago, but they can today. Now is the time to buy while the market is low.” 

Related: For Savvy Entrepreneurs, an Economic Downturn Creates Opportunity

He went on to add that he was selling more real estate than ever while almost everyone in that room was obsessed with the economy and the drop in prices. And yet, he was making a killing.

He wrapped up by telling me the button represented the attitude and the action that one must pursue when times are tough. He said he was at ease with the recession because many of the people in the room would be transitioning to another business while he became focused and they simply froze in fear.

His is not an isolated story. I’ve seen this happen during all four of the recessions I’ve experienced. Years later, I met someone who left his employment, cashed out his retirement money and decided to become an entrepreneur. He started his very own moving and storage business. He literally began with one truck, a storage facility and an office. He opened his doors and was excited to start his journey. This was in early 2008. Just as he joined the ranks of entrepreneurship, the Great Recession came crashing down on him.

He was devasted. All his hopes, dreams and cash were about to evaporate, but he had a similar attitude to my real estate friend, doubling down his efforts and immersing himself in networking groups to build his word of mouth. At the same time, he integrated self-storage programs into his business to help people who consolidated homes during this time period. This was one of the few growth areas during the recession. 

The bottom line was that he also refused to participate in the recession.  While other people were frozen in fear, he was focused on solutions.  He came out of that recession larger and stronger than he was when he and his company went into it.  You can find him today with many trucks and multiple locations around the country.

Entrepreneurs have been hit with a double whammy. First, COVID-19, and now, a recession. What I know to be true is that if you focus on the problem, you will be an expert on the problem. However, if you focus on solutions, you can become an expert on the solutions that will get you through both struggles.

Related: What Will Franchising Look Like After the Recession?

A powerful mindset begins with the belief that you can find solutions to the current situation. Belief is that little voice inside you whispering to you the things that “can be” while everyone around you is screaming about the things that “can't be." The right mindset, along with a plan of action, will lead you successfully through these turbulent times.

I for one, am going out today to make more buttons that say: “I Refuse to Participate in the Recession.” I invite you to do the same.

Ivan Misner

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Dr. Ivan Misner is a 'NY Times' bestselling author and co-author of the bestselling book, 'Networking Like a Pro' (Entrepreneur Press 2017). He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world's largest referral marketing and networking organization.