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5 tips from the recession guru!

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Self-appointed recession guru

Do I dare call myself a recession guru?  Why not?  I spent most of life working in a regional centre given to trouble and strife!  If we weren’t rapidly readjusting to major political turmoil, we were adjusting to the effects of drought on agriculture which was our primary economy.  In a good year, the economy expanded 3%.  When the rains didn’t come, we went back 3%.

  • We got very good at scenario planning and not over-reacting.  We were brought up on the phrase: anyone can make money when the markets are going up.  A business person plans for the up and the down.
  • We stopped blaming people.  If weather is the problem, then plan for it!
  • We learned about the economy.  As an HR consultant, my business wasn’t hit in the year the economy went down.  It would feel the pain 2-3 cycles later.  Simply, psychologists don’t work with farmers very  much.  We work with people who supply the farmers and people who supply the suppliers.  It takes a little time for the effects to work through the levels.
  • We learned what the numbers meant.  For the record, a downturn of 7% will have accountants hyperventilating.  Quite often their firms are technically bankrupt and they should cease trading – but if every one is in the same boat, you breath fast and trade through!  Equally I can tell you with confidence that you can survive 100% inflation quite well. At 300% expect people to get seriously ill.  Relax.  We aren’t there yet!
  • And above all we learned to focus.  We learned to sack customers who didn’t pay on time!  It is disconcerting to shrink your revenue, grow your profit and play more golf.  But that is how it works!

Time management

BNET published a good article today on time management.  The centre piece of the article is the busy, busy person who is racing around being busy being busy.

Since I have come to live in the UK, I have been stunned by poor time management.  I am amazed by someone who delegates his time management to a subordinate (usually blokes delegating to gals?).   Beyond a junior levels of management, our tasks aren’t serial, they are interrelated.

Let me give you an example:  I email you asking to discuss something.  You email back to say yes and speak to your secretary.  I write to her (usually).  She consults you (or doesn’t).  She writes back with some questions about time.  I write back.  She confirms.

7 emails to do something you had the power to do in your first reply.  When I confirmed, that would be 3 emails.

The pre-email rule is that any piece of paper should come across your desk once and once only.  You should have been sufficiently clear about your priorities to make a decision whether or not the meeting with me was important to you and how our meeting would move your major project forward.

All else is dross.

HR and the recession

As HR practitioners, we have a major role in a recession:

  • Make sure we are calm ourselves.  Get the HR team taking exercise, working reasonable hours and secure about their own prospects.
  • Back up the people like accountants who are on the front line.  Spend time with them to make sure they are taking exercise, working reasonable hours and calm about their own prospects!
  • Get the conversations about the economy and the company humming.  Make sure managers understand the economy and talk to staff (I’ve heard of Royal Bank of Scotland managers unable to discuss credit derivatives with their staff – don’t be like that please!).  Resource the conversation and support it with social media.
  • Make sure people understand what factors the business must focus on to succeed and keep them focused!

Above all of course, we should be focused.

“Know your Number 1 priority. If you achieved nothing else in the next 12 months, what single achievement would most contribute to the success of your organisation?”

Can we answer this question ourselves?  How many people in the organization could state the No 1 priority for

  • the organization
  • their unit
  • their boss
  • themselves
  • each of their colleagues
  • their subordinates

Remember, any one can do business in good times.  It is the bad times that test our credentials.

Published in Business & Communities


  1. Ian Ian

    Great view on the recession.

    I recently attended an interesting meeting where a seemingly bright person within the property market said that his business and himself had planned for the recession a year ago. He mentioned something of a 60 year cycle where a correction in the market occurs and we’re now at the 60th year.

    Have you heard much around this? I’m very interested in this 60 Year cycle and are you referring to this in your blog? You mention cycles but wasn’t the eighties a huge correction in the property market?

    From what I understand from the 80s crash was that people got greedy, changed their lifestyle to fit their image, increased their property sizes because it was a good market and all without proper considerations in place or plans set aside should they not be able to make the arrangements – THE ENDOWMENT POLICY.

    Well it seems we were at that point 18 months ago… I once lent money to those who wish to buy a property and instead of an endowment policy as a means to ‘make the lender happy for paper trail purposes’ there was something called a Self-certification mortgage (and still is). This recession should have been spotted back in 2003 when self-cert mortgages were being investigated and companies mis-selling the idea of a self-certification application.

    So, if there is a cycle, and there are investigations into suspected practices, where do the rea problems lie?


  2. Jo Jo

    Hi Ian, good to see you here.

    There are definitely cycles but I don’t think they are precise or totally predictable.

    The investigations are because of the breach of basic business norms (not lending prudently), stretching rules to the limits if not beyond, and just the obvious – claiming you need millions in compensation for your expertise then crawling into a congressional inquiry in the States and pleading you didn’t know.

    It looks to be a case of ’emperor’s clothes’.

    What matters to most of us is, where next! I think it is a case of ‘watch and learn’. Getting this experience early your in your career is cool. Less to lose and more to gain!

    As I said in the post, its great when it becomes clear what has to be done. Calm people down, and get them to focus!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Ian Ian

    Thanks for the reply.

    I totally agree. It’s a strange thing to be involved in and almost an exciting thing too. For me, career wise and personally, this is a learning curve and perhaps a learning cycle.

    I just find it interesting that in everything we do in the world there is a correction that happens somewhere in order to bring focus and regain control over things. I wonder when there will be a huge correction in population because that will be the next once surely?

  4. Jo Jo

    There was a chap called Malthus who predicted a population correction worldwide – it hasn’t happened. It happened in the west a little – Veterans had on average 4 baby boomers who had on average 1 Gen x who had 2×3 Gen Y.

    You will be interested in the buttefly effect modelled by chaos theory. If you draw a 3-d graph (x, y and z) and imagine a point moving round a butterfly shape but in 3d not just 2d – then you get what looks like a self correction as it swings round and back.

    What’s happening is the x and y makes up the next z and z and y makes up the next x and so on and so on. So everything is connected. If I start off happy, for example, I will carry on being happy but I reach a limit when I swing back and take a more serious look at life.

    And vv. Hence, there is a season . . . when it is time to grieve, grieve and in due course, one swings out of it. When it is time to laugh, laugh, and move along as appropriate.

    Hence to be a happy person means not being happy all the time but being happy and sad appropriately and moving between the two (and all other emotions) without getting stuck.

    Using this way of thinking, the ebbs and flows of economic life are normal. What people fear at the moment is that we have swung right out of the trajectory and are taking off (to some sort of unknown outter space). People can remember the depression between the world wars and they shudder!

    How’s the theatre site coming along?

  5. Ian Ian

    Wow, that is extremely interesting. I really had no idea. I’m going to look into the butterfly affect. Is that a tested and proven theory or still in the early stages?

    Do wars and human nature not present us with a correction? Surely when the population is increasing it causes an over-exposure of waste and usage etc and therefore creating a chemical response and subsequently a physical retalliation. Death! Ha.

  6. Jo Jo

    The butterfly effect comes from the Lorenz equations that describe the weather. Not too many psychologists can manage the math (I only just do it).

    There is probably something on wikipedia about Lorenz and weather and on Malthus and population.

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