With an economic downturn in business, you may have started feeling the pinch. Budgets have been slashed. Training and development dollars suspended. Travel curtailed. Salaries decreased. Expenses reduced.
During this time, some executives will succeed financially while others will fail. While it’s not a law of life that one must fail during a downturn, people who are afraid to learn and give it all they’ve got could find their personal financial growth negatively impacted. Those who succeed find their success depends upon their attitude and their ability to use this time as an opportunity to increase their business savvy.
When your company experiences a growth slowdown or experiences financial trouble, now is the time to improve your “business depth and breadth.” Or, your alternative is to become a job seeker. The Labor Department’s latest survey of employees found that even when the economy was still red hot, that even during the best of times, many displaced employees take a big hit. And, executives are not exempt! In fact, the rule of thumb is that the higher up the corporate ladder you go the longer it’ll take you to find another comparable position, not necessarily with the same financial renumeration!
A year or two after being laid off, over a fifth of former full-timers were either still unemployed or had left the labor force–and another 11% were either self-employed, working part-time or doing unpaid family work. Nearly 40% of re-employed workers had to change occupations to find work—and—39% back on full-time payrolls were receiving less pay than at their previous jobs (and over half of these suffered wage declines of at least 20%).
With the economy slowing down, now is the time to get yourself some executive insurance—developing your business depth and breadth, or another way of saying it: your business acumen. It can result in you staying and growing with your company or moving on, on your own terms, thus ensuring your personal financial growth.
Golden Rule #1: “IF YOU’RE WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT, SO ARE THEY!” What can you do when your company’s growth has slowed or is in financial trouble? First, and foremost, get in action NOW. What immediate challenges does the company face (whether or not you’re directly responsible for that area)? Interview different managers. Ask questions and really listen to their responses: “What are 3 issues facing us today?” “Why are these issues important?” “How do you suggest they be resolved?” “How much will it cost if we do?” “How much will it cost if we don’t?”
Golden Rule #2: “DON’T BELIEVE IN THE NAYSAYERS.” Be careful not to fall victim to the naysayers of the company. In order for this process to work, you need to believe in your company, employees, and products/services. In asking the questions from Golden Rule #1, a common theme/issue will emerge. Investigate with outside people. Ask them their thoughts and opinions. Then get into action, put together a plan. Now is NOT the time to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.
Golden Rule #3: “DON’T KILLTHE MESSENGER IN WORD OR IN ACTION.” Review with people, from within your company as well as outside of your company, your outline of the solution. Really listen to their ideas and whenever possible incorporate their ideas and thoughts. What do they like? What don’t they like? What alternatives could they provide? Don’t be afraid of brainstorming. True synergy will result in a better solution. Can they at least live with the plan even though it’s not ideal? Remember to listen to their rationale, even when you don’t agree. Ask for their help. If they’re not willing to, move on. [Remember, part of the reason your company is in its’ economic state is due to blaming it on external factors and not being responsible internally for moving projects forward, improving customer service, closing prospective sales, etc.]
Golden Rules #4, #5, & #6: “HAVE THE GUTS TO FAIL (do the best you can “by when” you say you will) … AVOID PERFECTIONISM (it can always be done “better”) … DON’T WAIT FOR ALL THE FACTS (there will always be more).” Establish 3-month goals. Hire a coach or consultant (YES, find the money) that will keep you on track and moving forward. This will keep you out of the quagmire that internal thinking has already gotten you into. It’ll be the best money ever spent.
Golden Rule #7: “NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO AGREE WITH YOUR GOALS: BE CLEAR, BE CONSISTENT AND FOLLOW-THROUGH, THEY’LL COME AROUND.” Now is the time to stay focused on sales and delivering products and services on time and within budget. It’s not time to worry about the carpeting. Nor the new system you believe will save time someday. Curtail unnecessary spending. Stay focused on having money coming in the door while ensuring the highest quality of products/services are meeting customers’ needs.
Golden Rule #8: “BE WILLING TO LEARN YOUR LIFE LESSONS NOW INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR TOMORROW.” Remember to stay focused on achieving the results. You may need to layoff people. Many companies put this dreadful task off too long or jump at it too quickly to save a few bucks sacrificing future growth. This will require a level of objectivity that most managers fail to use and can be a very uncomfortable process. It can also become a turf war. The bad news is that you may win the battle, but ultimately you’ll lose the war if you’re not truly looking from a bigger picture. Ask questions: What happens with different projects if we cut those employees now? How do those projects impact the bottomline? Which employees are most versatile? Which employees have the best skills? Which employees work best with customers, internally and externally? These are the employees you need to keep. They may not be the employees you like best! You’ll learn a life lesson of being able to work with anyone at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance.
For instance: I have a client that did not like his boss. And, if I had told this client a year ago, when I began working with him, that he’d enjoy working with his difficult boss, he wouldn’t have hired me. We made extraordinary process, he was the only one achieving all of his goals in a $150MM company. During this process I suggested he talk with his boss about how to work better with him and apologize if necessary for anything he had not done to support the boss or the department. As a result of that meeting, he changed his attitude toward his boss, and vice versa. They became great allies. Also, his employees now liked his boss! His life lesson? He’s able and capable of working with anyone at anytime; and this is well recognized throughout his company.
Golden Rule #9: “HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS WELL AS THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OTHERS.” There are no guarantees that if you follow all these “Golden Rules” that you’ll keep your current job, your company will succeed or stay in business. A benefit however is that you’ll learn to move forward with ease. You’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself, your relationship with goals and achieving them, and how to work effectively with different types of people to get the job done on time and within budget. Now is also the time to celebrate your successes and others’ achievements. While you’ll need to keep your primary focus on the company and achieving these goals, make sure to take a couple of hours weekly (for early morning breakfasts or after work meetings) to ensure your network is working in the event you need a job. Follow these Golden Rules and the possibility of multiple job offers, either from within or from other companies, will appear.
(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2003