Lessons From a Gawdawful Year

January 21, 2010 · 0 comments

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Some people have told me that ’09 was not their best ever year! But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What lessons have you learned from this tough year? Here’s what people in my Success in 2010 plan workshop sessions have been saying:

“We’ve had to cut costs to the bone. We’ve managed to save 10%. It struck me, what if I had been that ruthless in good times and not just bad? I’d have 10% more bottom line. Money to put in my pocket, to create a cushion for future tough time or to create a growth fund.”

“2009 was humbling. I saw how arrogant I’d been. We assumed that growth would just keep going. But when the phone stopped ringing, we had to relearn Marketing 101. For example, setting targets for number of new clients, and tactics how to bring them in. We should have been doing this all along.”

“I let myself get discouraged by telling and retelling the same old story of woe about how bad 2009 was. This was killing the business. During the plan workshop, I wrote it all out in excruciating detail, took one last look and then tore it up in little pieces. Now the slate is clean for 2010.”

“We kept people on way too long. We should have laid people off sooner. I was afraid that we’d never get the good people back. I’ve learned we cannot guarantee jobs. We must retain labor flexibility. From now on, our scheduling must go along with revenue—not just shop people but admin as well.”

“We saw our employees perform better in tough times. They’re more friendly, supportive and team-oriented. Is this fear of unemployment? I think they just saw the trouble the company was in and it focused their thinking. As a result, people are doing better client work than ever.”

“I watch the books like a hawk now. During good times, I only kept half an eye on the books. I’ve got to track how we’re doing—even day-to-day. I can’t wait till the end of the month to see what we did a month ago.”

“We hunkered down and lost sight of our goals. We’ve had to get in touch all over again with our long-term vision. It’s the source of our direction and inspiration. Without this we’re just wandering around.”

“Tough times force us to make better decisions. In fat times, we get lazy; let bad decisions slip in; spend too much on marketing and keeping poor employees, etc.”

“We laid off 40% of our people and kept the best 60%. Now that business is picking up, I’m giving more hours to our remaining people—even overtime—rather than rehiring. I see that paying overtime for existing people is cheaper than paying health insurance, workers comp, etc for extra people we hire.”

“We got a lot less picky about our customers. We’re going after smaller clients we would have said no to before. And without these, we’d be dead now.”

“A key employee left unexpectedly. This threw us for a loop. The lesson? Cross-train. Don’t be put into a position so that the company is held hostage to whether one employee stays or leaves”

What lessons have you learned? Add ‘em below.

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