Lessons that the recession should have taught us

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The recession isn’t over for a lot of businesses but many others have come through the storm and are still standing.

Citing American Express, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 15 that “the nation’s small businesses are now looking to grow, with capital spending and hiring plans up.” On May 4, the WSJ reported that according to Capital One Bank, “85 percent of owners polled in March said they’re able to access the financing they need.” So it would appear that things are looking up.

Whenever we experience something like the Great Recession, we should take a step back and think about what we’ve learned from the situation. Here are some observations from a consultant’s perspective.

People will help you. We sometimes think business is just that — business. But businesses are comprised of people and people are often willing to help others if given the opportunity. We’ve seen instances of companies finding ways to work with other companies to help them through the tough times. It often had to do with cash flow and helping figure out ways to continue supplying products or services.

We’ve also seen companies help each other with ideas by sitting across the table from each other and formulating new and better plans. Partnering arrangements have formed and banks have restructured loans. It’s worth noting that in many cases where businesses were helped by others, two dynamics were in play. First, the company offering help had always been treated respectfully by the company requesting help. Second, they were simply asked to help.

Employees have a lot more to offer when given the chance. When faced with tough decisions, many companies found their employees were willing to change the way they worked by taking on more hours and responsibilities, or accepting less pay and/or reduced benefits. They were willing to step up to help their employers when it was needed and this attitude no doubt helped some companies survive. Once you’ve moved past the recession, continue to tap into this positive attitude, compensate your employees fairly, and let them know they’re appreciated

We’re a lot tougher than we thought. A lot of people have been forced to make some difficult decisions, work harder, and do more to keep their businesses going. They’ve gone beyond what they ever thought they could do and have accomplished things they would have thought impossible prior to the recession. People have shown that they are resilient, creative, and willing to do whatever it takes to keep their companies viable. They have survived and are stronger than they once were.

Our lives involve so much more than our businesses. People who had previously placed exaggerated significance on their companies learned what is truly important in life — their families, other relationships and health. We’ve heard comments from lifetime workaholics that they had never really “gotten” what life was all about until they faced possibly losing their businesses. The recession caused them to reassess their lives and now their faith is stronger, their relationships with their spouses and kids are better, and they make more time for friendships that are important to them.

We don’t mean to sound naive about the recession and we recognize that a lot of people were hurt. Hard decisions had to be made and a lot of companies closed their doors. But there were lessons to be learned and some were very encouraging. So take those lessons to heart, tap into your strengths and move forward. You’re most likely a better business person than you were before.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in BusinessTruths Consulting, Inc. and several other businesses, and authored The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. They can be reached at Judy@BusinessTruths.com.