Since the last time I wrote you the economic news has only grown increasingly grim with auto companies on the brink of collapse and job cuts being announced on a daily basis. I know many of our clients and readers are experiencing tough times and having to make some tough decisions as well. But there may be some upside to all this down news. In fact, there is almost always upside to down times.
Though it may be hard to see beyond the present slowdown, I thought it would be wise to remind you of some of those upsides. One of the upsides is that organizations get lean during down cycles and these times lend the urgency needed to re-think how we do things. If there was ever a time to engage your people in thinking about how to do things smarter and more efficiently this is the time. One of my clients is asking every team throughout the company to look for ideas on how to cut costs and remove unnecessary work. Not only does it give employees an opportunity to help stave off layoffs but these efficiencies will last beyond the slowdown.
Another upside to down times is that market share is often gained during down cycles. There are a number of reasons why this happens. The most obvious one is that some of your competitors go out of business but there are other factors as well. Many companies slash and burn during tough times-cutting R & D, cutting the sales force, letting good talent walk out the door, or having layoffs to effect short term profits. Companies that keep their people engaged, keep service up, and keep talented people, will often grow market share during the downturn and then turn that market share into real gains when the pie grows again. It is the job of leaders to see beyond the short term to get ready for the next up cycle. Find creative ways to keep talent, offer part time flexibility to staff, keep in touch with clients even if they aren’t buying, build relationships with prospects, and serve existing customers with the same spirit as during up times. This may not pay off during the downturn but watch what happens when the cycle turns.
There are also lots of personal upsides to all this down. Often down times lend us perspective. We realize that the things we have been accumulating really weren’t the source of happiness anyway. We stay at home and cook together, we give smaller presents with more thought, and we discover amazing things to do right here in our hometown. For some, the downturn may lead to a time without work and an opportunity to consider a much needed career change. Many a life changing career change has come during a slowdown.
One more thing to remember is that the world hasn’t changed as much as we think it has. The sun came up this morning, its raining here in Vancouver just as it should be this time of year, and the soil is going to rest for the winter getting ready for next year’s harvest. I know this is a tough time but staying hopeful is critical. Yogi Berra, the great New York Yankee once said “when you come to a fork in the road take it.” This time will pass and the cycle will turn again. Even if this time has dealt you a tough blow, you never know the upside that might be on the other side of down.
I wish each of you a holiday season filled with joy.