Fight or flight?

Back in my homeland, a significant drop in the price of milk can throw a damp, wool blanket over an entire town, making it difficult for many local businesses supported by the dairy industry to turn profits in a market controlled by outsiders. Now where have I seen this scenario before?

You can do one of two things. Complain about the drop per hundred weight, which if you properly execute a tonsil-clearing farmer snort while saying it, “hunnert-wate”; everyone will nod in agreement, kick the dirt, and then go about their chores. Or, if you are a generational farmer, in it for the long haul, you adjust your projections, cinch up your overalls, dig in for the bumpy ride and diversify your revenue streams.

The nice lady who cuts my hair over the past two years is a pretty good example of that attitude and gave me some insights into her small business recently. She opened up her salon in Williston (although I prefer to call it a barber shop) a few years back after having successfully operated a similar business in Wisconsin.

During 2013 and 2014, customers were lined up, some waiting for an hour or more to get trimmed and gussied up for another day on the oil rig. She and her sister and aunt couldn’t keep up with demand. Which is pretty good, since they are tucked off the main thoroughfares, and didn’t spend much on advertising. They would close promptly at 5:00 pm, and Mondays just to get a break and sleep. But things are different now. Things are different everywhere. The salon owner told me:

“I know a lot of folks closing up. It’s not as busy as it was in 2014. I could go back to Wisconsin, too,” she said. “Is my business down? Yep. Is it slower? Yep. Am I going anywhere? Nope. I just signed another three year lease. I’ll be here to take care of customers that others leave behind.”

She tells me she’s working harder than ever to be available for her customers when they need a trim, and working past 8:00 pm some nights. It’s not all about just opening the door and hoping to survive the crush of customers day after day. That was before 2015. Now she’s marketing more, encouraging word of mouth networking, and even contributed a small sponsorship to a local race driver.

This is one example of what’s happening all over the region and in our community. We can’t control the effect that a global market hiccup in oil prices will have on our economy in Northwest North Dakota. But we can control how we react. Just like our farmers who have to adjust to the price of milk every so often.

Greek philosopher Epictetus said:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I suspect this is harder for some than others. Some businesses will adjust, some will not be able to do so as easily. But with so much of our infrastructure investments now in place, diversifying our economy, adjusting our expectations and riding this period out is more plausible than it was in the 1990’s.

Just because the rate of economic growth is slower, doesn’t mean Williston isn’t growing at all. We’re adjusting to this pace and adapting to the ‘new normal’ just fine, thank you.


 

Quick Chamber Update:
Jump over to our new website, www.willistonchamber.com to stay up to date on events, new members, and sign up for the weekly newsletter.

Business directories are available – Members get one free, otherwise they are $10.

ShamRockin’ the Bakken – Taste of Williston event on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Check out Facebook to keep tabs on which Williston restaurants will be featured, and where to get tickets ($20 each), and follow our Taste of Williston mascot, Fergus, as he visits local businesses before March 17.

Level UP 2016 Chamber Business Conference – The premier business event of 2016 in Williston, May 11 at The Well at Williston State College. Come hear Inc Magazine columnist, entrepreneur and author Norman Brodsky as the keynote as he highlights his career and talks about ‘Street Smarts’ his book. Interact with key business leaders and network with like-minded individuals to learn sales techniques, media tactics for your business, fitness in the office and business tech applications to help you grow your business AND your career. Sign up now!

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