Business & Leadership Behaviors Random Thoughts

There is a Silver Lining in Everything – Success Stories from the Depression

The Depression Era lasted from 1929 to1940 and produced several startling statistics.  Over the years, many of those may have been forgotten:

  • There was 25% Unemployment
  • The Stock Market dropped 89%
  • Wages fell by 42% Sun Tzu Quote - opportunities in problems

All of this took place over eleven years – until World War II started and began to bring us back.  This Era was devastating to many people, their families, and our country.

But even with all of this happening, there were many individual successes in the business community.  Let’s look at four of them:

Proctor & Gamble – P&G recognized that people would still need soap and thought they might as well be the supplier of it.  So instead of decreasing marketing, P&G increased it and looked at a new way to reach its market.  One of those was sponsoring daily radio serials aimed at homemakers.  (Does the name “soap opera” ring any bells?).  They then leveraged this new type of marketing to other products.  You can read more about P&G’s story here.

Kellogg Company – Most firms did the predictable thing in an economic downturn – rein in expenses and cut down on marketing.  Kellogg did just the opposite in the packaged cereal market. They doubled their marketing budget and continued to increase new products.  The result was a 30% increase in profits by 1933, and they became the industry leader – a position that they still own today.  You can read more about Kellogg’s story here.

Thomas Jefferson Quote - work creates luckMartin Guitars – In a vulnerable industry during a down economy, Martin figured out a strategy that not only allowed them to survive but to remain in industry leadership that they continue to maintain today.  They accomplished this by keeping the trust and integrity of their relationship with their retailers (commitment) and customers (quality).  They also invested in new product options to open new markets without sacrificing their traditional market.  You can read more about Martin Guitars’ story here.

General Mills – Moving from just an industry leader in flour mill operations to the multinational food manufacturing giant that it is today was possible through a massive boost during the depression.  Looking beyond the current economic situation to when America would flourish again, they transitioned into several areas: the creation of an R&D department for new products, leveraging new marketing concepts like radio, and selling to the prevailing market circumstances and needs.  You can read more about General Mills’ story here.


What I appreciate about all of these stories is not an attitude of survival but one of continually examining your organization, the market, and the tools available for your best options, then having the courage and persistence to change.  This pivot may be easier for smaller businesses than larger, more multi-layered organizations if they have the stability to pursue it.

I believe in the American spirit and our ability to not only survive but grow from our experiences.  During this new period and the current economic slowdown we find ourselves in, HL Group has discovered some new benefits we can provide.Emily Dickinson Luck is not chance quote

We’re taking the time to investigate our resources (people, employees, customers, etc.) and product (mobilePLUS), and are finding many new values for us that we weren’t taking full advantage.  This has lead to some exciting activities over the past few weeks.

I’m praying the best for everyone, your community, and your business, and look forward to our mutual work in getting things going again.  Many of the “new normal” business practices will be both exciting and challenging but should prove valuable as we move forward.