Thinking “out of the box” is an approach to life, a pattern of behavior and believing that many proclaim they are committed to, but few actually are able to demonstrate. In these times of economic turmoil, the familiar and conventional have proven to be ineffective in providing solutions to individual and institutional financial turmoil.

A relative and business colleague of mine works for a company that has a financial solution for these troubled times which is based upon the development of a niche market that produces tax savings and increased cash flow for owners of commercial real estate and multi-family dwellings.
Some individuals have rejected this solution upon being introduced to it because on the surface, this sounds and looks good. There is, of course, as with any business operation a cost. The solution my colleague’s company advocates employs only legally reviewed and IRS approved methodologies with minimal, if any, risk. This solution allows real estate owners to re-capture tax dollars paid during better economic times to be utilized, among other ways, to pay current or future tax obligations.

Despair and fear have reduced these individuals to resisting the opportunities these troubled times offer to change fundamentally the way they do business. Instead, they are wary of the unknown to the extent that it causes them to put up barriers to receiving the new cash flow that they say they need now to sustain their businesses. In other words, their fear of any risk-taking in their business is paralyzing their actions to maintain the existence of their business.

When we compare what happened economically in the 1980s and 1990s, the primary difference in today’s troubled times are the numbers of families and businesses which are in financial trouble. The number of such families and businesses has increased exponentially. It really does not matter whether we got here as the result of conditions in the marketplace, world economic forces, poor decisions, or extreme greed in our national growth. Personally, for our own economic salvation, what matters is our ability to focus in the here and now with the flexibility to adopt previously not considered solutions in order to find effective ways to move forward. In other words, we must replace fear and narrow-mindedness with the courage to change.

As a turnaround specialist and an expert in complex business issues, I work with businessmen and women in financial and organizational trouble as a normal and manageable task. In most cases, after a thorough analysis of the situation, there are solutions that make all concerned better off. Unfortunately, I have experienced story after story after story of those who declare a desire to change in order to save or strengthen a business who then oppose any real change to make that happen, while still proclaiming their commitment to bettering their situation. I have heard many variations on the themes, ” what you say I need to do can’t be true or I would have heard of it already,” or “my professional advisor (accountant/lawyer/financial planner) is unfamiliar/unsure/concerned with your recommendations, so I am not going to do it.”

For all of us experiencing the tumult of these troubled times, to do nothing is actually a decision we’ve made to continue the downward slide. To get out of a financial mess we’ve created for ourselves or someone else has created for us, we cannot escape the first requirement, which is to pay dues by implementing a new attitude about the situation and possible solutions to it. To do otherwise is a conscious decision to ignore change.

It pays to remember that conventional wisdom and thinking may not be the most helpful or useful. Before you can gain the vision you need to move forward, you must first practice seeing beyond mere appearances. For those who really embrace change rather than simply pay lip service to it, they are able to achieve this vision with like-minded people and combine forces with them to take advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves during this crisis. Sure, times are hard, but they are also magic if you open yourselves to creative thinking about the next road ahead.

Tough Times Tip: If a mob comes to get you, jump in front, call it a parade and begin to lead it.

– Dr. B. J. Hawkins, President and CEO of OFSTM The Business Doctors, is a business growth and turnaround specialist. She can be reached by e-mail at