There's an old story about two shoe salesmen whose company sends them to a remote village in Africa. Upon arrival, one sends home a message saying, "No one here wears shoes; on my way home." The other salesman sends this message: "No one here wears shoes; send inventory!" Amazing how two different people see the same circumstance with a different perspective and how their outlook influences behavior. If you don't feel that you can change a situation, you act one way. But if you see the world as a series of opportunities, you act very different.

As I have met with several clients over the past weeks, I've been struck by this simple principle in regard to the behavior of managers and its effect on entire companies. As we begin to emerge from the recession, some managers seem preoccupied with all that is wrong with the business climate and the economy, including high unemployment, continued scarce credit, low consumer confidence, a sluggish housing market, increasing regulatory barriers, extreme government debt levels, and a very unstable political environment. Faced with this reality, many managers hold their head in their hands and focus primarily on reducing costs and maintaining their current business model, putting off decisions that might require new investments or risks. It's a "batten down the hatches and hunker down" mentality where you don't look toward the future because the present is so tenuous.

On the other hand, some managers and firms look at the same business environment and see enormous opportunities for growth, progress and the ability to create a competitive advantage. For example, have you noticed that in an effort to keep customers coming into restaurants, ALL fast food chains now offer value meals? You can eat an entire meal for around three dollars. Additionally, a national grocer realized that in these tough economic times, consumers are constantly looking for better values that make it possible to feed their families for less. So the grocer expanded its frozen food brand by reformulating the meals to make them more nutritious while also taking out costs to keep the price affordable. Simultaneously, it created a campaign called "Affordable Choices" that features healthy recipes for people on a budget (using their self branded products). These steps and others helped this business realize significant year-over-year increases in sales volume — some of which they were able to reinvest in newer and more premium brands, with a strategic eye toward capturing higher-spending consumers as the recession eases.

Now that the "official" recession, as measured by government statistics, is ending, it may be a good time to assess your "psychological" recession by asking yourself a few questions:

• Have you identified new opportunities that may be created by the current business environment — and what is the plan to aggressively pursue them?
• How has the recession weakened your competitors — and what can you do to capture share from them and set your business apart?
• What are you doing to find and invest in new technologies and innovative approaches outside the box of your own R&D efforts?
• How are you taking advantage of the new focus on sustainability and social responsibility?
• How are you encouraging your people to think about growth and to take risks?
• What networks of partners and potential collaborators are you building that can move you quickly into new markets?
• How are you able to reinvent your product offering to add more value and a lower cost?
• What is your definition of the “New Economy”? Does your organization fit this definition?

The list goes on. However, these questions will help any executive to get on the right path to understanding how to move forward.

The key is to make a mind-set shift from all of the negative aspects in the current economic environment to all of the opportunities that these problems might be generating. While it may seem difficult or even impossible, asking yourself the right questions is a simple way to begin the mental shift — but one that could help you to sell a lot of shoes.

Author's Bio: 

Dan Rip, is a skilled business person with a broad professional background that spans over a period of 20 years with experience in creating small business and expanding into large, sustainable, award winning entities.

His passion for business has driven the start of of his website that provides resources for management consulting and executive coaching.

His experience includes ownership of a large, thriving real estate brokerage, property management firm as well as a mortgage brokerage. His technical skills include in depth property analysis, real estate development, business development, strategy, marketing, management coaching, training and sales.

Dan’s MBA helped him to refine his intellectual acuity as well as create exceptional analysis skills with an ability to pay attention to important details. He has a proven track record to guide businesses through difficult market cycles. During the current mortgage and real estate melt down, Dan’s keen awareness and decision making skills have proven his ability to keep businesses solvent during the most challenging crisis’.

Dan is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as well as a graduate of the SoulSalt Academy where he became a certified coach (SSCC).

Dan enjoys spending his free time with his wife and four sons. They enjoy any kind of outdoor adventure. Dan also serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Wasatch Peak Academy, a K-6 charter school.