Sunday, August 3, 2008

Adapting to Changing Times

Adapting to Changing Times

Here’s your once chance Fancy, don’t let me down.

-Bobbie Gentry

The economic world is changing and people need to adjust.

Success or failure depends on attitude. Franklin Roosevelt led us out of the Great Depression because he offered people hope and confidence. The kind of hope and confidence that people need now.

No society has ever achieved greatness led by a cynic.

There are people who look at life as a half empty glass. There are others who look at life as half-full.

I'm in the half-full category.

Businesses and industries are going through dramatic transformation. The two industries I’m involved in, finance and media, are in periods of unprecedented change.

Coping with upheaval means recognizing that it’s too late to cling to yesterday and knowing that tomorrow is coming on fast.

I get frustrated with some people at large companies that are on the way to be in small companies. They don’t get it. Instead of preparing for the future, they like to moan, complain and long for the good old days.

Those days are not coming back. Neither is $1 a gallon gas prices.

Instead of being bitter, they need to realize they have the opportunity of a lifetime. If they play their cards right, they will be better off than ever.

Every person in the financial world has skills that can be transferred to a business they own. Media people have a “brand name” with the public. Both groups can take the skills honed at large institutions and use them to make their own fortune.

Entrepreneurs in the next generations won't have the opportunity of training at a large company. They will have to start business for themselves from day one, instead of learning their craft from experienced hands with vast resources.

I was very lucky. I was affiliated with a large financial services company 25 years ago while I built own business. That company spent a small fortune paying for my education and professional designations.

I could not afford that education on my own; and never would have successful without it.

People starting in financial planning won’t be subsidized like I was. They will have to do it on their own.

Large companies are a unique blip in American history.

In 1900, only 10% of Americans work for large companies. The other 90% were self-employed farmers, and shop owners. By 1970, the number of people working for large companies reached 90%.

It’s been dropping every year since 1970. We are on a steady march back to that 10% number. The recent economy is quickening that march.

It is a challenge to train people who worked for large companies to learn how to be entrepreneurs. A challenge that has to be met.

Americans have an edge. We grew up in a capitalist system and know how business works. Almost all of America’s competitors are coming from extreme poverty or totalitarian governments. They are trying to develop the resources and creativity that Americans already have.

When people stop viewing downturns as hardship and view them as opportunities to grow, change, and achieve greatness, the world becomes very different.

Getting through a rough spot requires some thinking and discipline.

Get rid of everything you don't need and payoff as much debt as possible. If you have money, take advantage of bargains in real estate and business.

The next trick is to work smarter and harder.

If you work in a factory and can do weekend carpentry, do it. You can make some extra money, hone new skills, and find clients.

If your factory job moves to Mexico, you are closer to another gig.

When people decide they're not going to depend on a big boss to hand them opportunity, it is liberating experience. Like our forefathers, we have the chance to thrive in an environment where we control our own destiny.

This is a unique point in history. Don’t blow it. It is like the song says, “here’s your one shot Fancy don’t let me down.”

Don McNay is the Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group, which is celebrating its 25th year of entrepreneurial growth. You can write to him at or read his award winning column at Don is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.