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HOLD UP in the recession

How are you supposed to make sense of the tidal wash of statistics and opinions that ebbs and flows regarding how businesses should conduct themselves in a recession? Whose advice should we follow? Who should we believe regarding where the economy and our businesses are likely to end up? Who are the guru’s whose words we should be hanging on?

In the newspaper city a. m.  Printed in London dated 15th July there is an, interesting section from the editor Allister Heath titled “Dangers of psychological group think”.

The premise of the article is that even stats, news and business opinions, like all other opinions are governed by popular opinion.  Regardless of your opinions or political leanings, (populist or non populist), the man makes a valid point in my opinion

He mentions the advertising industry before and after the bubble, the starkly contrasting prevalent view points that existed pre burst and post burst. Pre burst, it was presumed there’d be perpetual growth, post burst, that advertising based business models were defunct.

He quotes ITV as an example “a firm that was written off a few months ago, will see it’s earnings rise 10%”.

In relation to the economy, Vincent cable was laughed at pre-credit crunch for predicting it. Shriti Vadera was ridiculed in 2009 for talking about “green shoots” while most newspapers and other media outlets were talking about a 1930s style depression. The markets recovered from their bottom out.

It appears that the people who tend to be successful in making forecasts are those who make the use of the data and remain calm and collected . One can argue that this is the case for success in any field.

Anyone who has ever had success has stood out from the crowd, even though they are a part of it and intrinsically understand it .

So, make changes because they make sense for you or your business, not just because someone else is doing it.  Make the best use of the resources and info you have.  Create a mindset and environment in which you lead trends, not follow them.
To quote Mr heath one last time
“the best analysts and investors are those who understand this – and hold their nerve when everybody around them falls prey to group think”.

So to the original question, whose advice should you follow in these testing times? Who is the guru? Who do you think now?


“Can you afford the cost of not investing in staff in a recession?”

In the middle of a recession, people would be forgiven for thinking that it is the wrong time to invest in training and development  staff skills.  Budgets are cut, jobs are being cut back, every figure is being queried.  We have just had the most severe budget since the second world war.  The new catch phrase is “era of austerity”  How on earth can we even consider thinking about training people in such times?  It can’t be done, can it?

Let me introduce an alternative  view-point that may shake things up.

Bruce Tulgan is the founder of Rainmaker Thinking Inc. a research, training and consulting firm.  He is the author of  “It’s OK to be the Boss” and “Managing Generation X”Over the last 2 years, Rainmaker Inc conducted a study  to learn the most successful business strategies used by companies in the US  during the credit crunch.

Over 1000 managers participated  from private, public and nonprofit sector. The companies posting the strongest financial results followed  a three-pronged approach during this time.  Two are obvious enough in traditional thinking in dealing with downturns

  • Cost cutting: downsizing, redundancies, cutbacks, all the usual tactics which companies use at times like these.
  • Innovations: implementing new solutions to improve quality of service,  of production,and innovative  marketing strategies.

The third, it some might be from an unlikely source.

  • Increased supervision.  Tulgan’s article states that in this instance, Employees received more one on one training, direction and feedback from managers.

Among managers employing only one of these strategies, those who used increased supervision reported the top financial results in 2009.  Pay and benefit cuts  have happened and are still happening across the board, but hand on managers were able to reward staff with flexible hours, working from home, time in lieu and other benefits that didn’t necessarily cost the company much

The key was this.  Managers who started to pay attention to who was doing what and why and where.   They began communicating more with their teams and reviewing their performances.They were better able to recognise and reward top performers and supervise staff whose work wasn’t as good as it could be.  At this stage, real performance based compensation started to enter in to the team dynamic and this energised the team and subsequently  performance.

The most successful teams were where managers could communicate their vision and successfully break down tasks with their team while giving them the encouragement and responsiblity to be able to complete their tasks and go beyond the basic remit of the job.

Effective communication and feedback skills are absolutely crucial to this . Also, being able to relate to an employee in an empathic way which motivates them.  In a way, this is management getting back to basics.   Strong leadership should (and generally does)  mean strong integration within the framework of the team.  Human relations are what make departments work successfully.

When it comes to leading, the way that you do it is crucial to getting the results you want. A feedback session style that works well with someone in a sales position may be totally ineffective with someone from a technical or financial background.  The skill for a manager and indeed any employee is to know how to appraise each situation.  This isn’t a skill that is taught in business schools or indeed in many places, but if Rainmaker’s study seems to indicate, this is a key skill which businesses must teach across the board in order to get ahead in the recession.

So, can you afford the cost of not investing in staff during a recession?

Hello world!

I have decided to move towards getting what  I want  out of my career and towards helping others get what they want also.

You see, I have learned a very valuable lesson over the last few months. Clarity.  Clarity comes about like the way the sea clears of sediment after a storm, whirling around furiously at first, then slowly drifting, clearing and then finally settling at the bottom of the sea bed.  As it settles, it allows the light to penetrate to all corners.
Clarity comes about when we take action. Sometimes we are too scared, unmotivated, lazy, excuse laden or just unfettered by a desire to change because of habit.  Here is the thing.  Once you have a desire to change, act on it, no matter in how small or imperfect a way.  The smallest, most imperfect of actions beats perfect inaction hands down.  The more action you take, the more effective you become and the more clarity you gain.

So, feel free to take imperfect action.  How many times does any person get any one thing perfect to the core, first time?  Submitting something that’s not perfect, critiquing it yourself and getting feedback from others can give you access to resources and ideas you never even knew you had.  Even the smallest of ideas can be polished up and added to so they develop a momentum of their own that takes you a long with it.  Taking action gives you another point of view and gives  you a focus,  Once you take action with  a destination in your mind, it is normally only a matter of time before you  get there.

This first blog post created today is an example of this.  I hope to develop the skills that already exist within me to take me on the path to where I want to be. Let’s see how we go!