If you aren't at least a little afraid about the general state of our economy, and the global economy for that matter, you haven't been listening to the news. Ultimately, we rely on other people's spending habits and budgets to pay our own bills, and that understandably makes one nervous when input prices have been rising at an unprecedented rate as they have been.
During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to define that fear as the “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Roosevelt was right. It isn't the market fundamentals that present the danger; ultimately they are pretty good. It's the concern that we will be unable to capitalize on opportunities because we're paralyzed by uncertainty.
Perhaps we should look at tougher times as being great liberating times in which to be bold and innovative. Very few people try new strategies in very good times.
While fear can freeze us in inaction, it also can be a great motivator. Now is the time to increase your strategic initiatives and implement changes in marketing strategies, rather than withdrawing. It's time to really identify what's worked best in the past and step up those efforts.
Another key is to not focus on the hourly swings of the futures markets, the daily trends in the beef complex or the latest action of the Dow Jones. I've talked to numerous producers who have been totally sidetracked from their goals because of concerns about the macro economy.
I'm not suggesting you bury your head in the sand and ignore reality; I'm suggesting you take a longer-term approach and embrace the fact that in every negative lies a potential opportunity.
When times are tough, you need to expand your horizons. Perhaps you need to look at retained ownership, running stockers or taking advantage of recreational opportunities in a more serious light.
Number one is to keep a positive attitude and a long-term perspective. After all, the long-term outlook for ag and the beef industry is exceptional. Focus on the 80/20 rule and surround yourself with proactive, optimistic people. Evaluate your efforts and spending. Now isn't necessarily the time to cut back on either front, but there are probably areas that aren't producing results.
Whether it be a recession or the cattle cycle, businesses can and do profit in the lows as well as the highs. Managing in down times is about honestly facing conditions, being proactive and taking action.
Troy Marshall is editor of Seedstock Digest and a contributing editor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly. To receive BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, a free electronic newsletter delivered each Friday afternoon, sign up at beefmagazine.com.