My partner was on a commuter train into central London the other week sitting opposite two business men discussing the UK economy and how they’d responded to downturns in their business. The first, sighing heavily with his head in his hands, related that he reluctantly just laid off a third of his workforce. The second calmly shrugged his shoulders and said that his company had less than half the orders they had a year ago. The conversation went something like this:
“Oh,” said Mr Sigh, “you’ll be firing half your people then?”
“No. We’re going to ride it out and the company will be fine.”
Mr Sigh stared at him with disbelief. And Mr Calm laid out his strategy for business survival and “thrival”:
– The knowledge that economies and businesses fluctuate and Gordon Brown could never guarantee doing away with ‘boom and bust’ markets.
– A planned ‘maintenance’ fund – tax efficient with reserves to cover a worst case scenario year of no new income at all.
– Putting the workforce onto all the ‘maintenance’ jobs that they never had time for when business was booming thus clearing the decks for V-shaped or U-shaped or whatever shaped recession it might be.
– Getting his talented people involved in taking stock of the business strategy and looking at core business efficiencies, maintaining and improving customer relationships and value, innovation, diversification, investment in talent and training.
He remarked that he’d been through recession before and had noticed that the businesses that survived and thrived didn’t go running for the bunkers and were prepared to respond to different market conditions. He also now saw newer businesses whose leaders have never experienced a recession and did not know how to respond. His summary of his own situation was that he’s pretty confident his business will thrive.
I was impressed by this man’s attitude of “thrival” when my husband related it to me. I was however left with an enduring image of my husband scribbling notes for me – how else did he remember the story in such vivid detail?