There’s an old saying that I believe in: Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
There’s balance and beauty in that statement. If you believe you can accomplish something, you’re well on your way to doing it. If you lack confidence, you start in a hole, and it’s tough to climb out.
That old saying was top of mind for me at the recent American Sportfishing Association Sportfishing Summit in Florida’s panhandle. I was surrounded by a lot of our industry’s manufacturing leaders, and most are pessimistic about the immediate future of the U.S. economy, particularly the fishing market.
Are they right or are they wrong? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that they’re bracing for tough times, hunkering down, and tightening their belts. My concern is that they’re making our situation worse than it should be or needs to be by “investing” in failure.
I hate to see that for a lot of reasons, most of them directly tied to the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If these leaders are expecting tough times, then they just might be helping to create them. That would be awful … for all of us — manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, media, and anglers.
In stock market terminology, these people are “bears.” They are pessimistic. The opposite is the “bull” — someone who is optimistic about the market. You probably remember the old Merrill Lynch commercials with bulls running around on Wall Street: “Merrill Lynch is bullish on America!”
Bulls create paths to success. Bears try to cut their losses. Both have their virtues, but bulls take charge. Bears hibernate.
The other thing that was top of mind for me coming out of the Summit was data that I learned from Rob Southwick quite a few years ago. Southwick is one of the go-to guys when the fishing and hunting industries need data to inform their next move.
He taught me that when the American economy is down, the fishing economy typically improves. People may be working less, spending more time with family, looking for opportunities to entertain themselves in the outdoors, getting back to basics.
And while sales of big-ticket items — boats, engines, high-end rods and reels — may flag, sales of terminal tackle, lures, mid-range rods and reels, and aftermarket boating and fishing products often soar. Anglers will keep using their “old” boat but purchase the things needed to keep it looking and running like new.
And whereas it might be tough to justify spending thousands on some fishing items, it’s not tough to justify spending on the little things like hooks, lures, line, and the things you need to stay out on the water.
Rather than significantly diminishing the spend that anglers make, an economic downturn may merely redirect some of that spending. And if you’re positioned to take advantage of that, you could have a fantastic year … but only if you’re bullish, only if the prophecy you’re working to fulfill is an optimistic one.
You don’t need to hibernate. You need to pivot or realize that you’re already well-positioned for the economic trend.
In 2008, ’09, ’10, and ’11, I watched Strike King prosper — perhaps like never before —because they were in the right space, selling the right things at the right prices. Kevin VanDam’s unprecedented success and their considerable marketing efforts helped to lead the way. They were aggressive and ran with the bulls.
I’ve also seen companies expect the worst … and get it. They appeared paralyzed, waiting for something to break loose rather than making something happen or taking charge of their fate. Even after the smoke cleared, they never woke up.
I’m not saying that there’s never a time for caution. I’m saying that some companies will experience their greatest success during times of economic downturn and uncertainty because they are aggressive, pivot with the circumstances, and find opportunities to succeed because they think they can.
Others — mostly lacking confidence in their own ability to pivot or in their own offerings — believe they can’t succeed … and they’ll be right. They’ll fail and not come out on the other side.
No path is certain, but I believe it’s better to run with the bulls than sleep with the bears.