Would You Welcome Tough Times?

By Paul Reilly

Would you welcome tough times? Before answering, consider this story:

In 1907, Bill Klan was working for a Detroit ice company. He had hard work and low pay, but he was happy to have a job. However, Bill was laid off later that year. Out of work and out of patience, Bill reached out to his previous employer — an automobile manufacturer. It was harder work for less money, but again, he was happy to have a job. For several years, Bill worked hard and was the model employee. Bill’s boss assigned him a special project to speed up production.

In 1913, Bill visited a slaughterhouse in Chicago. He watched the workers systematically dismember hogs and cattle as they went down the line. An unpleasant experience for some, but Bill found it inspiring. He thought to himself, “If you can take something apart this way, then you can put something together this way.” Bill quickly rushed back to present his idea. Bill’s employer, Ford, eventually bought into the assembly-line idea. The assembly line significantly lowered the price of their Model T and doubled its market share.

What a great success story. Like any success, we often marvel over the achievement but overlook the external factors that led to the success. Two significant events also contributed to Bill’s success. And those two events have one thing in common – tough times.

•  In 1907, there was a run on one of the nation’s largest banks which led to a recession. Bill was fired from that ice company because of the economic fallout from that recession. If there were no recession, Bill would never have been fired.

•  In 1913, Ford assigned Bill to improve productivity. This campaign was during the recession of 1913-1914. Ford was facing tough times and looking for ways to reduce costs. If there were no recession, would Bill have been tasked with this cost cutting project?

Without tough times, there would be no assembly line.

Tough times are filled with uncertainty, but they’re also filled with opportunity. Uncertainty often clouds our vision to see a brighter future. That’s why some will wait for tough times to pass before taking action. Their response to tough times is to pause and wait for better times. Have you ever met a successful person that waited their way to success? No. When you fall on tough times, you either wait it out, or you gut it out. The choice is yours.

Tough times are frustrating. There is no denying that tough times are painful. In life, we’re taught to avoid pain. To avoid the pain of tough times, people give up. But that is a mistake. The pain in tough times acts as a catalyst for positive change. When tough times knock you down, you either give up, or stand up. Again, the choice is yours. Here are three ideas to help you prevail when you face tough times.


You can acknowledge tough times without accepting tough times. Denial is not a strategy; there is no benefit to ignoring tough times. Denial prevents you from experiencing the benefits of tough times. The key is to acknowledge without accepting. Acceptance is too permanent.

Acknowledgment is the bare minimum of recognition. You know tough times are there, but you don’t need to dwell on it. You recognize reality, but you choose not to accept it. As one business owner said at a company meeting, “Apparently, there is a recession, but we’ve decided not to participate in it.” The crowd erupted. That’s acknowledgment, not acceptance.


Newton’s First Law: An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion unless it’s acted upon by an outside force. Before a tough time, things are going well. You are taking action, and it’s paying off. Then you’re hit with tough times — the outside force. Some sellers let this outside force slow them down, while others judo flip that outside force in their favor.

It’s tempting to wait things out during tough times, but you cannot wait your way into success. Use tough times as an opportunity to gain market share and mind share. If you increase your activity and the competition reduces their activity, you’re gaining more traction. You are positioning yourself to emerge faster and stronger from tough times.


Failure is a great teacher; adapt as you see fit. Consider your progression throughout your career, from your very first sales call to where you are today. You adapted only because you failed. For salespeople, failure is instant feedback. The pain of failure motivates us to tweak our approach and try new things. As you fail during tough times, don’t shy away from the pain; embrace it. Harness that pain and let it catalyze change.

The pain we feel sparks creativity. We eventually become numb to the ill effects of pain. We realize that the sting of pain is temporary, but the positive change it creates is permanent.

Tough times are inevitable in business and life. How you manage the valley of tough times determines your peak in the good times. As you experience tough times, don’t pause, press on. In tough times, your action might not always deliver the desired results, but take action anyway. Your tough times prescription is simple: acknowledge the tough time, take massive action and adapt as necessary. Whether you see it or not, you’re moving in the right direction. And although your progress is not always visible, it is always meaningful.

Paul Reilly, is a speaker, sales trainer, author of Selling Through Tough Times (McGraw-Hill, 2021), co-author of Value-Added Selling, fourth edition (McGraw-Hill, 2018), and host of The Q and A Sales Podcast. For additional information on Paul’s keynote presentations and seminars, call 636-778-0175 or email Paul@ReillySalesTraining.com. Visit www.TomReillyTraining.com and sign up for the free newsletter.