Workplace Rights

Weekly (3/22/10)

Topic of the Week  Reversal of Fortune - Turning Around a Failing Business:

Reversal of Fortune - Turning Around a Failing Business:
• DON'T blame the recession.
• DO give up the perks.
• DO get everyone involved.
• DO focus on new opportunities.

If my inbox is any indication, many people out there don't buy the reassurances from economists that the recession is now behind us. We all need to continue to explore survival strategies. Which reminds me of a guy in Seattle who was screaming to high heaven. When police investigated, they found him stuck on a four-foot fence he'd tried to leap like a Ninja. According to police, he was "overconfident" in his abilities and ended up impaled. To the surprise of absolutely no one reading this, police thought alcohol was involved.

Economists remind me of that Ninja dude, hyper-confident that that we've already leaped over the recession. But most of the people I hear from are still screaming in pain. I've listed three Do's and one Don't for coping with today's tough times. For more, check out George Cloutier's book "Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing" (Harper Business, 2009).

DON'T blame the recession. The recession is the problem, but what is gained by dwelling on it? Resist the obvious temptation to gripe and instead focus on creating a new future for your organization. We need to put all of our energy, and creative ideas, into what's going to get us out of this mess.

DO give up the perks. A golf membership here, a fancy company car, a salary cut there won't solve all of the financial problems you're facing. But those cuts can show the people at your company that management is willing to both talk the talk, and walk the walk. It's obvious that you've got to be on the lookout for significant cost savings and new business opportunities, but you can't toss out the symbolic baby with the bathwater. Keep your eyes open for "statement" cuts that you can make with your business and with your fellow top executives.

DO get everyone involved. Budget cutting tends to be done "to" employees, not "with" them. This isn't Pollyannaish thinking, it's being strategic. Why? Closing your office door to solve this problem on your own leads to ridiculous 10% across the board cuts. You need a scalpel, not a bludgeon. Often the most dramatic cost savings will come from the people who are closest to what's going on because they know the short cuts and inefficiencies. So call an all hands meeting and get everyone involved in digging you out of your hole. Everyone I've talked to who has done this reports that creative solutions and sacrifices were proposed that they would have never thought possible.

DO focus on new opportunities. A bad economy takes a lot of the old opportunities away. But it can also offer new opportunities, and not just discounted products and services. From stimulus cash, to offering services targeting companies that have lost capabilities to layoffs, to grabbing market share from hobbled or out of business rivals, there are still revenue-generating opportunities out there.

Follow the tips and hopefully your business won't get impaled in today's challenging economy, you'll figure out how to rise above it.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Also check out his newly revised best-seller "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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