1934 may have been the height of the Great Depression, but it is also the year that one of my favorite movies came out: Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
In a famous scene, Clark Gable removes his shirt before going to bed and reveals that he is not wearing an undershirt. Legend has it that undershirt sales dropped 75%, immediately, in the U.S. After all, if Clark Gable doesn’t wear an undershirt, why should I?
Imagine you are an undershirt manufacturer in 1934. You have three choices:
- Say, “this is just a fad,” do nothing, and wait for undershirt sales to return to normal levels.
- Say, “this industry is dead,” and get out of the undershirt business.
- Say, “our world is different now. We need to recalibrate our whole approach to our business in light of these changes.”
Not hard to guess which choice I think is the right one. Think about this: T-shirt sales after 1934 grew exponentially, as the t-shirt became not only an undergarment but a special piece of clothing in its own right.
Now, think about your world, right now. Changes in your world happened, essentially, in one night, and it didn’t take Clark Gable undressing for bed to cause these changes. Your world today, on April 16, 2009, is completely different than your world on April 16, 2008.
So, what are you going to do? Hunker down and wait for the undershirt business to come back to “normal?” Get out of the undershirt business? Or … recalibrate your approach to your business, finding opportunity in the new world order?
The choice is yours …
(P.S. As Arna and I were being married, on January 21st, 1984, the VHS recorder in our apartment was, at the same moment, recording It Happened One Night off of our local PBS station.)