Be a Buffalo

Charging into the Storm

I was recently introduced to a metaphor most commonly expressed as “be a buffalo and not a cow”. The premise being that a buffalo will charge into and through a storm to minimize their suffering, while cows will run away, actually extending theirs. I thought to myself, “what could be a more relevant concept to discuss as we all try to navigate the economic headwind that we have turned into in recent times?”.

As is my nature, however, I thought it best to do a little research before I start to position this as fact or any manner of original thought. What I discovered through that research is that far more legend exists than pure research. Even that legend, that Native Americans describe the buffalo charging into the storm has been somewhat distorted. The little “conventional wisdom” I could find made more sense…that the buffalo just turns into the storm to allow its thickest fur to help minimize its pain, but it doesn’t actually charge. As with many things, the legend is often far more interesting than the facts, however the metaphor is certainly apt.

It can be easy to use this or any other metaphor to motivate individuals and companies to adjust their psychology to minimize the pain of any personal or professional change of circumstance. Rory Vaden, a highly regarded leadership trainer and speaker, references it very effectively in his presentations and writings. Google “be a buffalo” and you’ll see that he is far from alone. The bigger question is “how” SPECIFICALLY do you get through to the other side of a storm, including the economic storm we are all now facing?


Bank of Buffalo channel letter sign

Experts abound, political, scientific and commercial, all quick to play “Chicken Little” and all telling us since late 2021 that “the sky is falling”… that a severe recession is impending. These pundits choose just the right statistics to each make their case for and against, blurring the lines between fact and perspective (I often wonder if there is really a difference?). In the end, the loudest voices end up creating a self-fulling prophecy.

Many business owners and leaders will tell you that they “are concerned” these days, that they see their customer postponing substantial purchases and/or being generally indecisive. Most of this is conjecture, however, with few arming themselves with statistical proof whether it be actual revenue, pipeline value, etc. In the end, however, believing it to be so does lead people to “hunker down” in some form or fashion, creating the reality that everyone fears. So, what do to?

The movie “Days of Thunder” presented a fantastic lesson when character Cole Trickle was trying to recover psychologically from a major crash. In a return to competition he sees another crash unfolding in front of him. He makes the choice to ignore his base survival instinct to slam on the brakes and steps on the gas. The crash follows its natural energy with the involved vehicles spinning away from the center of the impact, opening a lane straight through, ultimately leading him to victory. I often paraphrase that lesson as “when you see a crash, step on the gas”. Applied to the current environment, logically and practically:




Many of your competitors will succumb to the mass psychology, “step on the brakes” and “hunker down”, delaying or reducing expenditures, particularly expenditures in marketing and sales.  The result for THEM is:

  • Reduced brand awareness
  • Reduced customer interaction
  • A self-perpetuating reduction in REVENUE


Many of your customers will also respond to the mass psychology and “hunker down”, reducing their spending to all but the most necessary expenditures.  This will have the same effect as on your competition:

  • Reduced brand awareness
  • Reduced customer interaction
  • A self-perpetuating reduction in REVENUE


Here is where the good news begins.  Your suppliers, in an effort to bolster their own business will start “wheeling and dealing”, offering:

  • Price incentives to purchase product at the same or increased levels
  • Improved payment terms to spread the financial impact of these purchases
  • Cooperative marketing & promotion to help you move their product through your channel

What about YOU?

By responding aggressively you power through the storm. This not only counters the effect of the storm, it is a springboard to much higher levels of success. It is the perfect time to:

  • INCREASE your marketing spend…especially into assets that have long-term impact (for example, rebranding, signage, online presence, etc.)
  • INCREASE your outreach activities, e.g. prospecting / check-in calls, social media, community interaction, etc.
  • SUPPORT your customers in new and innovative ways that will improve their loyalty

All of this will add up to:

  • Improved brand awareness and market share
  • Deeper customer relationships
  • INCREASED revenue and profits

Whether you choose to “be a buffalo” or “step on the gas”, there is no greater time to invest in the future of your business than now, when all the “cows are running away”.

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