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The Premiere of Fear (Part 2)

Fear plays a major role in our purchasing decisions. It’s a big headache for businesspeople, because it’s a feeling that comes up for different reasons in different people, and it has to be managed in different ways. A critical factor in an economic crisis is how fear is managed by those who influence economic decisions. Usually, companies wait for a centralised solution, but those who are smart enough and good enough strategists know that they can stay ahead of their competitors if they wake up first and manage fear at their own level. We just have to be careful, to be fair!

Deeper fear

If there is one thing that is causing serious concern for business decision-makers, it is the presence of a new level of fear in the markets. Those who thought they had ready-made solutions after 2008 are in for a big surprise. We can now see that the level of fear more than a decade ago was just a kind of weak dress rehearsal. If we look back at how many companies went bust even then, we clearly get the answer to how many businesses that were not really marketable existed before the first real crisis, and how much we need a little purgatory sometimes, even if it is bad reading for those who could not jump the fence then. But let us accept the fact that real decision-makers can manage and find solutions in times of crisis. And for those who are not capable of doing so, there is nothing wrong with that either, they must know their place. The current fear is deeper, less vibrant, but that is precisely why it is more frightening. There are serious mental processes at work in most people, which are not yet fully developed in one direction or another. Many are pondering the meaning of life, and rightly so. But it is a passive state now. Consumers are evaluating impulses, and let no one think that each individual will objectively decide for himself what to do with his life. It is very much a question of personality, of how someone reacts at a time like this, and also of who can be influenced in this respect. Consumers are waiting, gathering information and looking for impressions that can guide them. They look for the people who tell them who they can really trust. And here comes the real catch. Because compared to 2008, the situation has changed significantly in terms of who people accept to change the world. Back then, it was enough to come up with a new strategy, to create a different communication, and it really worked. People didn’t necessarily look behind the communication, the promises, they didn’t check the company, the service or the product. Economic-based fear was new for several generations. The situation now is very different, at least in business for sure. And the reason is that the vast majority of business decision-makers lived through the last crisis and the 12 years that followed, so they have seen the consequences first-hand. They can compare the promises made to companies at that time with what has happened since. Well, in this test, many of the businesses that flourished in the fall of 2008, because the professional content has not been developed behind the nice-sounding communication. What is now being tested in business is nowhere near the communication of now – make no mistake, it still has to be perfect – but the results of the past years, the professional knowledge and the market position achieved through that professional knowledge. In addition, there is now a very strong focus on privacy, which means that managers need to believe that companies run by people whose personal lives are in order, or rather exemplary, can lead them out of the crisis. Moreover, they can accurately measure this fact in their fellow managers, especially if they are not doing well in this area.

Antidotes in 2022

Consequently, the antidote to fear, after the traditional first step of putting professionalism at the forefront of business, has clearly become a new factor, which many have put in more than one way. We just call it “energy” or “charisma”, which is the ability of a person or company to be seen clearly by others as a “success”. Well, then we have another subjective feeling, if it can be more than fear itself. Now, then, must we get used to subjective feelings being used to decide whether someone will be successful or not? We could say that this is the case after all, but that would not be entirely true. In business today, managers can really feel each other’s energy. This has always been the case, but with the acceleration of technology and the shift of human relationships into the social space, the personal impact is becoming increasingly important. In the old days, when it was impossible to keep track of people’s lives, successes and business actions – the slowness of the media meant that they saw the light of day when the businessman or company thought they would – it was also much easier to make managers believe things that didn’t exist. Nowadays, everyone is used to a little “lying” or social media-based “fibbing”, so when it comes to a serious business decision, they are much more focused on gathering real information about the person or company in question. And they can. Furthermore, people’s personal lives are intertwined with their business lives, so if someone doesn’t have that kind of background in order, they certainly can’t be a successful, energetic business person in the long term. In other words, being successful is indeed a subjective feeling, but it is based on very serious objective facts. So, even in the current climate of fear, only those business leaders who have had the focus on building their own lives over the years, and not just on their careers, will be able to lead their companies and teams out of it. We hear a lot these days about the importance of having a ‘work-life balance’, because the deep market fears of today can be eliminated by people who have this factor perfectly in order! And if 2008 was the dress rehearsal for fear, this is definitely the premiere! A premiere that should not, however, receive the red carpet treatment!