By Scott Harris on September 21, 2012
My wife and I recently spent a very enjoyable weekend in a small resort town in California. The town was beautiful, the people were great and the scenery was fantastic. As we drove in, we fell in love with the mountainsides, the deep forests with huge old-growth trees and the long meadows filled with grass flowing in the breeze.
Like many tourist towns, this one was filled with a variety of shops designed to capitalize on the atmosphere and have us part with money, purchasing things we certainly didn’t need and would hardly remember buying in a few years.
At each shop, we would mention how beautiful the town and the surrounding area is and almost without exception, we would hear, “You should have seen it before the fire.”
At this point, we’d seen no evidence of a fire, but eventually we went looking and found the large area that had burned, including many of the great old trees. However, it had been long enough ago that the harshness was gone, at least to new eyes, and new growth had started — different than the surrounding areas, but with its own particular beauty.
I share this because it reminds me of my wife’s optimistic take on the recession. She had pointed out that as devastating as the recession was — and how hard it was to watch friends lose jobs and businesses — it was akin to a forest fire. It killed off many businesses, but only those that were not strong enough to survive and ones whose time had perhaps come. It also strengthened and hardened those businesses that were strong enough to survive, readying California for its new economic reality.
And while I don’t think anyone would argue that the recession is a thing of the past and that our economy is now humming along on all cylinders, we are, collectively, better off than we were at the height of the recession. Most businesses that weren’t going to make it are long gone and most jobs that were going to be lost have long been lost. We are certainly in recovery mode, the feeling of day-to-day panic and impending doom appear to be gone for most of us and we are now dealing with our new reality.
Back to our tourist town. Those who were most directly impacted, the residents and shop owners, still see things through the prism of the fire. That is easy to understand and hard to avoid. However, for us outsiders, we see a beautiful town, new growth and new possibilities. California’s economy is the same way. We can focus on the recession if we want. It is both understandable and forgivable.
However, it doesn’t do anybody any good. I see an economy that is stabilizing, if not stabilized. I see businesses getting stronger again, willing to make investments in everything from marketing to capital purchases, and slowly to adding new jobs.
No doubt the landscape is different than it was, but it’s our landscape, our reality and the sooner we accept it and move forward, the better off we’ll be.
As I mentioned to the shop owners, the fire is in the past, unchangeable, and good things are happening now. Let it go, and certainly don’t point it out to visitors. I suggest the same thing to those building businesses and careers. The recession happened, that is unchangeable and undeniable. At the same time, this is our new reality. Focus on the future and the changes you can make and start or keep moving forward. The new growth is green and beautiful!
• Scott Harris is the owner of Thousand Oaks-based marketing agency Mustang Marketing. Contact him at [email protected]