The CEO has a great job. He’s revered and sometimes feared. He decided who stays and who goes. But, he also needs to be the spark that sets off new ideas, new initiatives, new forays into un-chartered waters and new and sometimes risky thinking. When CEOs lead by example, the whole organization gets swept up in the momentum.
A minister came into the pawnshop carrying his guitar. It was not the Almighty who directed him to us but the economy. The country was in the midst of a severe recession and our little industrial city of Chester, PA was feeling the brunt of it. Business was awful. Even in a pawnshop, where people needed us for a few extra bucks, business was slow. Our regular customers had already pawned most of what they had.
A recession touches everyone, even the church. The drop in spending in the marketplace translated to little being dropped into the plate at church. The minister came to us to borrow $10.
Nate asked him to play the guitar to test the sound. The minister played and sang “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” He had a terrific voice. Everyone in the store stopped what they were doing and came over to listen, including two of our regulars, Irv and Henry. Irv was one of the leading real estate agents in town, and Henry owned the largest plumbing supply operation in Pennsylvania. These men weren’t customers. They were the upscale visitors who came into the pawnshop regularly to watch the show. They, along with bankers, stockbrokers, and lawyers, often came to seek Nate’s wisdom and be entertained by our activities every day.
Before I could write his loan ticket, Nate asked a favor. Would the minister mind standing on the counter and singing a few inspirational songs? Nate thought we could all use spiritual help in this spiritless economy. Suddenly, the pawnshop was filled with the minister’s booming voice singing wonderful, uplifting songs.
As he sang, we clapped and joined him on the chorus. We all started dancing with each other in the aisles. People passing on the street came in and joined in the celebration.
It was just another day at the pawnshop.
It is the boss’s role to make things happen. Nate made things happen. Whether it was in deciding on which merchandise to specialize in, or themes for the window, or what to do to get more business in slow times, Nate didn’t just sit and wait for life to choose for him.
In today’s world, we’re all feeling stressed by this economy. But, one of the ways to start taking control of the situation is for CEOs to take control of their own companies. A CEO who chooses to keep his or her head down is hardly a leader. Leadership demands pro-activity. There are opportunities out there in the marketplace and now is the time to seize them.
Now is the time to build your company’s image while your competitors are laying low. Now is the time to go after market share while your opponents are afraid to make a move. Now is the time to invest in equipment to get an edge on your rivals. Now is the time to make strategic acquisitions.
Now is the time to stand for something. Companies grew and prospered by having a unique attribute and strong services and products. Many of those same companies are now falling into the trap of competing solely on price, because they think that’s what the marketplace is dictating. Price is very important. But, price has always been important. Equally significant is good service, innovative products, new ideas, forward-thinking concepts, and savvy strategies. Anyone can drop the price lower. But, a leader works to create more value in the product or service to warrant a higher ticket.
More than anyone else in the company, the CEO is the personification of the brand. What your company stands for and how it does business and how it presents its face to the public is most influenced by the CEO. When brands stop standing for something important, it is because the CEO allowed the company to slide.
History shows over and over again that companies that leverage the down economy come out on top when times return to normal.
Leaders who are delaying decisions until the future should be reminded that the future is only a day away. Now is the time to lead. Halleluiah!
It was just another day in the pawnshop