We could all be even worse off, but let's hope it gets better from here. For most of us the impact on our businesses has been inconsistent and inconclusive.
What are the right management strategies and action plans to get through this economic turmoil with a more resilient and successful business?
Here are the lessons we have learned from clients, commentators and other experts, so far:
1. Do not rely on the headlines.
They are just trying to get your attention and a train wreck is more interesting than a success story. They will not provide either balanced or insightful input to your planning or decision making. You will have to dig deeper. Make sure your market data and competitor intelligence is current and accurate.
2. Communicate Communicate Communicate.
Keep employees and customers informed. They are worried, confused and need to be reassured that they can count on you. Unfortunately, you may not have good news for them, but it will be appreciated that they are hearing directly from you and are not left guessing what's next.
3. Keep on Selling.
Now is not the time to cut back on marketing and sales. Your efforts now will be more even conspicuous and effective as your competitors back out of the market and away from their customers. Be selective and very focused. Work on building stronger customer relationships by being relevant and responsive to the current economic circumstances. Avoid the “cry for help” advertising that only confirms “we’re desperate and need the sales”. Calmness, confidence and competence are much more appealing to those potential buyers who are still spending and want reliable, long term suppliers.
4. Do quickly what obviously needs to be done.
If it’s clear to you it's also clear to the people affected. They are waiting for you to act and will be more confident and proactive themselves if they see you taking action. Face the facts, don't fight the facts.
Remember Darwin's "survival of the fittest": those who adapt to their environment are most likely to survive; not the strongest or the biggest. This is not the time to be stubbornly persistent about your plans. Look around and be creative. Your destination may still be the same, but the route, the vehicle and the passengers may need to be changed.
6. Be confident, but cautious.
Recognize the difference between calculated risk and a state of uncertainty. Make a decision if the potential outcomes and the percentage probabilities are reasonably clear, but hold fire if they are not.
7. Show conspicuous leadership.
President Obama understands the concept of being the conspicuous spokesman for his plans and policies. No one can do it better than the one who is ultimately responsible. We may not all be as adept communicators as he is, but we can all speak with more sincerity than any spokesperson or intermediary on our concerns, our strategies and our plans.
Good management will be tested during these times, but good decisions now will mean a better business for the future. Keep at it. This too will pass.