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Dodos and Cents

I'm an optimistic, "the glass is half full with a nice slice of chocolate cake next to it" kind of person, and I'm encouraged by people finding creative and innovative ways to maintain and even grow their companies in These Tough Economic Times. I'm also a "survival of the fittest", "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" capitalist, so I think lean times are part of the free market's way of thinning the herd.

So how does a company avoid the fate of the dodo, or rather, the Circut City?

One short-term strategy is paying attention to where Washington is spreading stimulus dollars around. It's your money -- you might as well try to earn some of it a second time. There's a cool website called stimuluswatch.org that tracks money allocated by state and industry.

My personal view is companies that save their customers money will do well in the near future. Earth shattering insight, don't you think? Not by lowering their prices, but rather by specifically positioning their products and services as effective replacements for higher-priced alternatives.

Individuals who might have been thinking about buying a Maybach are probably thinking Lexus looks pretty good right now. The Cheesecake Factory is probably losing a few thrifty customers to Ruby Tuesday. And companies that in the past might have spent a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand, on proprietary software might be giving open source another look.

Companies that can pull this off have an opportunity to pick up new customers and in some cases whole new markets. What remains to be seen is how soon, and indeed if, customers will go back to those higher-priced alternatives once the forecast calls for more Grey Goose and less Rolling Rock.