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Living through hard times: From people who have lived through them before.

THE BOSS CALLED ME IN AND BEGAN TO OUTLINE FOR ME just how bad things were. Instead of the gains we had been projecting, we were now expecting to have a decline of at least 15 percent for the upcoming year unless something really good and unexpected happened. By the end of the week I was to have a list of people who would be considered for layoffs.

I went to my office and made a list of all the people working for me. I made it in inverse order, with my name at the top as the last to go, down to the bottom, which was the name of the first to be laid off. This happened in 1967. We actually got through about 15 percent of the list before things got better.

In the '80 in Denver, things were just as tough.

A commercial real estate broker told me then that his 5-year-old son had asked, "Daddy, what's a crane?" And it dawned on my friend that his son, the son of a broker of buildings, had never seen a construction crane, because in the previous four years, no buildings had been built in Denver.

This will be, if memory serves, my fourth recession since entering the work force.

We were well on the way to having this one when the terrorist attacks brought it to us faster. And they are probably making it deeper.

Trying to get a bearing on things, I've been asking many "old" guys like myself just what advice they would give about surviving the downturn. Some thoughts for companies:


* This difficult period will end. Most experts say we will begin to recover in six to 12 months. The main responsibility of management is to see that the company comes out of the recession healthy. Healthy means with a business, with a team and with cash.

* This point should be made again. Running out of cash is the worst kind of disaster. Everyone in the company is depending on you to manage this well.

* Good managers will decide how to "cut the cloth to fit the suit," and then be aggressive in maintaining business. If people cuts must be made, be fair and respectful and remember that management is at least part of the reason cuts must be made. Do everything you can to help people who have been laid off.

* Help the team succeed. Measure success with indexes that work even in bad times. For example, use share-of-market instead of growth to define sales success. People will survive even pay cuts if there is some other way to feel that they are contributing and making a positive difference.


* Now is not the time for standing around the coffee machine with whiners. Now is the time to stand out because of hard work and positive attitude. Decide that you and your company are both going to advance a rung or two on the ladder so when business improves you'll be set for growth.

* Like always, everyone will know who has his or her shoulder to the wheel and who does not. If we demonstrate leadership now it will follow us when better times return.

* Keep things in perspective, particularly if you have lost your job. Six percent unemployment is still 94 percent employment; things are returning to normal, and we are making progress against terrorism.

* Don't forget to be a leader for family and friends. Feedback from that will make you stronger at work. If you are out of work, you will draw strength from your family and be back at a job sooner than you think.

What it comes down to: Work harder than ever, manage resources wisely and help everyone do better.

Don't worry about the future; work to ensure that it gets better.

Remember: More recessions are on the way and we should learn what we can from this one.
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Author:Wiesner, Pat
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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