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EDITOR'S LETTER: Reality check

Freefalling from 10,000 feet was exhilarating — I loved it. But that was just the beginning.

I pulled the ripcord — the parachute canopy didn't unfurl! The tangled cords 15 feet overhead pulled and strained against each other. It would have to be cut it loose. The knotted canopy crumpled to one side twirling downward.

Falling at 100 miles per hour gaining speed by the second the wind tore at me, ripping my goggles off. I pulled the auxiliary ripcord. The unbelievable happened — again! The auxiliary chute didn't deploy.

The ground loomed closer! I manually deployed the auxiliary canopy. Looking up, I saw the life-saving, perfectly unfurled canvas. The flapping of the fabric was soothing music to my ears.

The tumbling, disconnected feeling during my skydiving is much the same as the one I had watching my stock portfolio tumble downward; the barrage of's folding; or when the veteran stores closed. All very scary for those related to the retail industry. But, things can always be much worse.

Consumer confidence polls point to an economic growth slowdown, and some say an impending recession, yet consumers are continuing to spend. They may spend differently, but they still spend.

The fact is, consumers will increasingly seek values and bargains. To be a leading-edge company is to meet these needs. Those doing well reorganize for success; they watch their spending; they look for ways to be more efficient; and they change the way they market and sell their products. They stay in very close touch with their customers. They strive to understand their customers' problems and look for new ways to solve those problems with their products, processes, and people. Those who don't maintain a presence in their market won't be able to sell anything. And it's not just for the high-end, it's for everyone. We must ask how can we capitalize?

People are leaving high-stress jobs to spend more time with their families. Someone starts a home-based business every 11 seconds. And those home-based businesses are raking in $401 billion in annual revenues. How can we capitalize?

In this depersonalized society, consumers crave recognition of their individuality. They don't want to be a number or a bar-code. A doll company produces a custom doll looking just like its owner. Body piercing and tattoos is about a lot of things, not least of all individuation. A cookie company bakes a customized cookie imprinted with a color photograph in edible ink. How can we capitalize?

The fashion industry stepped up to the plate and adapted quickly. One shoe store takes patrons' particular measurements and offers a style preview including fabric and leather types. The data go to the factory, and back comes a pair of custom shoes. How can we capitalize?

After a tumbling ride and a bumpy landing on the hard ground of reality, all signs point to a return to normal. Albeit a new normalcy, but normalcy nonetheless. This downswing is merely a correction averting a major fall; not a disaster. A reality check is a good thing and panic isn't the answer. Simply wise investing, calculated growth, adaptation to new and innovative ideas, balance and modest spending will keep us both personally and professionally firmly anchored to the ground.

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