CNN recently reported that “the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already believed about the state of the economy.” The Wall Street Journal states that “Manufacturing activity around the world fell sharply in December 2008, suggesting that the U.S. recession will extend well into 2009, if not longer, and that unemployment will rise globally.” Are we having fun yet? We’re not suggesting that anyone take our current economic downturn lightly... in fact just the opposite. It appears there will be some tough sledding ahead, and this month we offer some management strategies for weathering these tough times.
Stay calm, cool and collected
No question, the U.S. economy is in the worst shape it has been in a long time. However, in your role as manager or CEO of a feed and grain business — people look to you not only for making the key decisions which make your firm run on a daily and monthly basis — they also look to you for emotional leadership. Thus, we believe it helps immensely if you acknowledge our current challenges, but encourage your employees to tighten their belts and stay the course — and as we discuss in more detail below — scrutinize expenses, look for efficiencies and continue to work hard.
To give you some fodder for your infusion of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) — and some thoughts to pass on to your employees, we suggest a recent Wall Street Journal Marketwatch column by Paul B. Farrell, titled “Noah’s Ark Survival Kit for Stormy 2009 Seas.” We paraphrase a couple of key points below:
- Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. We know it will be raining in 2009 — pouring hard. But Farrell states the real storm is within you. So is your ark. A state of mind. Farrell’s favorite special forces instructor states it this way: “If you have a guy with all the survival training in the world who has a negative attitude and a guy who doesn’t have a clue but has a positive attitude, I guarantee you that the guy with a positive attitude is coming out of the woods alive.” Plan ahead, budget, save. Cut expenses. Build your ark. It’s never too late.
- Build your future on high ground. Goals, goals, goals. Research studies prove that successful folks, the millionaires, get there by setting goals. At one major university a small percentage of graduates with specific goals made more money than all the rest of their classmates 20 years later. Today’s recession is a great time to rethink your goals — we’ll talk more about this below. As Nike’s tag line says “Just do it.”
Perhaps now more than ever, take a look at your income statement and ferret out any and all expenses not vital to the running of your business. Maybe it’s time to get rid of all your land lines but one — keep your phone number and the line that comes into the main office, but jettison all of the extensions that may cost you $5/month/extension.
Our guess is — most of your key people have cell phones that duplicate the service provided by your extension land lines, so dropping the extensions will save you money every month. Or, how about replacing your copier with a scanner (or maybe one of the new copier/scanner combos) to eliminate the need for investing in copy paper and toner on an ongoing basis? Sure you might argue that this may be a bit radical, but such a choice will certainly eliminate clutter and files — and save money.
A few more ideas — while they might seem trite, they are worth considering: Check out warehouse stores for your office bathroom, kitchen and work supplies. Avoid purchasing these items separately — shop for them in bulk at a warehouse store. Speaking of your office supplies — all of the missing pads of paper, Scotch tape and pens and pencils add up. Don’t let employees take them home. Just remind your folks to be cognizant of whose items these are.