One way to keep your mind open to chance opportunities is by staying on top of the latest news and products. Here, retailers learn about Shaw products during a training session at House of Carpets in Nashville. (Photo courtesy Shaw Industries.)

In late March, I spoke at the FCA Network convention about the value of being positive in these tough times. When the retail group first asked me, I was concerned because I’d had some discouraging days. I thought: if I’m down, how can I uplift these great dealers?

Consider the man asked to speak on positive thinking at a sales meeting right after the company had laid off half the sales force, doubled the work, increased quotas and cut commissions. The CEO wanted him to pump up the sales team. The speaker responded, “You don’t need me, you need Oral Roberts!”

Long ago, I learned that negativity perpetuates itself when fed. I knew I had to distract myself from what Zig Ziglar calls “stinkin’ thinkin.” Ruminating like a cow over what’s not working never moves us forward. Thus, concentrating on trying to stop thinking about bad things doesn’t work. Instead, we must fill our minds with positive ideas. I have built a habit of thinking positive thoughts. 

So, I seized this moment to refocus. I reached out for things that uplift me. I am motivated by positive people, through encouraging words, by focusing on my goals, and by counting my blessings. It worked and my negative thoughts fled. 

I’ve heard people say they don’t believe in self-motivation, because it’s fleeting. You get motivated one minute, but the next minute worry sets in. To me, that’s like saying you don’t believe in eating because after three to four hours you’ll get hungry again. It takes work, but work is our way of showing that we are not victims; we control our lives. I agree with Eleanor Roosevelt, who wanted Americans in the Great Depression to have hope. She said, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” 

In these tough times, I urge you to open your mind to chance opportunities. Instead of looking for what you’ve usually found, look for what is actually there. There you may find chance opportunities. Your competitors may call you lucky. The pessimists will complain that lucky people regularly find chance opportunities; unlucky people don’t. I say, unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they’re too busy looking for what they’re used to. Lucky people see what is there, rather than only what they are looking for.

A man who knew hardship, Edward Rickenbacker (1890-1973), concluded, “If you think about disaster, you will get it. Brood about death and you hasten your demise. Think positively and masterfully, with confidence and faith, and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action, richer in achievement and experience.” 

After returning home from the convention, I thought: I don’t need to try to motivate the people attending; they are already motivated. They came looking for chance opportunities.  It’s the dealers not attending these events I should worry about. They are staying home, trying not to fail. They are busying worrying about doors that are closing and missing those that are opening.

Bob Hill, chairman of the FCA Network, encouraged his dealers to look for chance opportunities to grow their business in other niches of the industry. 

Olga Robertson, COO of the FCA Network, reminded the group that tougher times serve to force us to work our flabby minds back into shape … to make thinkers out of people who haven’t been, or haven’t had to be thinkers. She then reminded the group to “get back to the basics.” 

She focused on seven basics, including my favorite: stay positive. The others were marketing, merchandising, overhead, margins, cash flow and selling credit.  In business you can’t get more basic than these. She maintains that doors are opening and closing in all these areas. The opening doors provide chance opportunities, if we will notice them.

The prior week, I did a webinar for National Floor Trends magazine sponsored by the World Floor Covering Association on “Alternative Ways to Advertise and Build Your Brand.”

At the webinar, I shared alternatives ways to advertise without over-spending, including ideas fine-tuned by great retailers from all over the country. You can listen to the archived webinar by visiting the National Floor Trends website ( and clicking on the webinar link.

Guess who listened? The dealers who were looking for chance opportunities. I reported that many business owners cut their advertising budgets in slow times. But I feel that marketing is muscle to be leveraged, not fat to be cut. Review your advertising expenditures. Which ads draw customers and which don’t? Be careful to not cut ads that bring customers through your doors.

A McGraw-Hill Research study followed 600 companies from 1980 to 1985.  It found that companies that chose to maintain, or raise their advertising expenditures during the 1981 and 1982 recession gained significantly higher sales after the economy recovered. Specifically, companies that advertised aggressively during the recession earned sales some 256% higher than companies that cut advertising during the recession. 

If you observe, you will find chance opportunities to build your brand without spending gobs of money marketing it.  As Yogi Berra stated, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

As University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business professor Peter Fader stated, “Today’s economy provides an unusual opportunity to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.” Recessions come and go; the survivors use their eyes, ears and minds to discover chance opportunities to create more business and take market share. Are you really using yours?