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Reasons to be Optimistic in 2009

If I hear “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” one more time on the radio, I’m going to scream.  One of the fundamental principles you learn when you study finance is that the value of organizations is more than the sum of their actual parts – and that the confidence that investors feel about their future has a big impact on the market value of those organizations.   So, growth and prosperity, as difficult as they are to envision in the current climate, still persist in the future for those who can act on the courage of their convictions.  If you want to read a cogent explanation of what’s gone wrong in the current economy, read this article by Ben Stein.

If you’d like to reflect on a few things that may be going right, I offer a few ideas from our board members about reasons to be optimistic in 2009:

  • Ruth Bramson talks about the persistence of philanthropy in this Boston Business Journal letter –Generosity is Still Very Much Alive.
  • Deb McGrath feels that people are setting more realistic goals that are achievable.
  • David Creelman noted that many people are curbing their consumption, spending more time with their friends and families, and finding more peace in their lives as a result.
  • David also noted that recessions can create space for good businesses to thrive.  A slow down gives us time to re-think and re-focus our business for the future.
  • Steve Hunt believes that organizations are still pursuing critical talent during the recession, and that they are increasingly willing to support telecommuting as a means of removing geography as an obstacle to attracting and retaining that talent.  You may also want to check out this recent podcast that Steve did with Rich Moran, a partner at venture capital firm Venrock in which they discuss the heightened importance of aligning employee actions with organizational intent in order to manage through the current economic climate.
  • Russell Klosk says that in order to goose the economy the government needs to spend money.  That means jobs that benefit from government spending are likely to take an upswing – everything from the approximately 8,000 jobs that are being stood up as part of the TARP sub-agency (within Department of Treasury) to administer the 750 Billion dollar financial services bail out to infrastructure (roads, subways, etc.) where Obama is already talking about spending up to 800 Billion.  He also comments that gasoline prices continue to plunge due to lack of demand in the current economic situation, and as a result the drag on consumers and the economy has lessened significantly.

Me, I’ve worked through multiple economic downturns and lived to tell the tale.  I don’t take the current world situation lightly – I have two children in private college – nor do I believe that wishful thinking alone will drive results.  I do believe, however, that maintaining a spirit of optimism can only enhance thoughtful strategies for managing through tough times.

What do you have to be optimistic about in 2009?

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  1. Here’s an additional thought from our board member, David Creelman:
    It may feel like companies are just battening down the hatches and interesting programs are being cut; but any time of turmoil is also a time for innovation. Whether it be starting your own business or leading your organization in doing something new there will now be a openness to ideas that would have been dismissed before. The catch is that people won’t be interested in new ideas that cost a lot of money–but that sort of constraint can foster creativity. In the midst of the boom if you said “We’ve gotta do things differently to survive” people would have laughed at you; now they will listen.

    January 2, 2009
  2. Here are a couple of other reasons to feel optimistic about 2009.

    1. We finally have enough pain that things are going to change. Without pain most of us keep doing things the same way.
    2. Innovation is going to be on the increase. In every recession in the last 50 years it has been the birth place for our greatest gains
    3.. A lot of talent that was supposed to be leaving the market place will be staying around longer since they cannot afford to retire.
    4. The Millennial generation is beginning to realize that they cannot walk out of one job and find another job that easily.
    5. Companies that have learned for the last down turn are working hard to keep their employees because they realize by the time they cover severance pay and other associated cost they have need to have those same people back.

    This probably does not fit what you ask but I have quit talking about tough times and started talking about changing times. Remember the same skills that it takes to survive are the skills it takes to win and winning is a heck of a lot more fun than survival.

    January 6, 2009
  3. Russell Klosk #

    I concur entirelly with Mels comments earlier. In the 1980s we saw a generation consumed by greed begin job hopping at the drop of a dime for a higher salary. This subsided in the early 1990s with the economic downturn, and then pattern repeated itself (all be it more limited to certain professions) during the dot com boom of the late 1990s before again subsiding when the bubble burst.

    Just as with the baby boomers in the 1980s and the baby boomers and generation Xers in the late 1990s the millenials were starting to hop from job to job chasing the dollars instead of the work they excelled at or their passions. The downturn has caused a battering down of the hatches and a return to more reasonable turn over rates among the millenials just as generation x begins to take the reigns of executive leadership from retiring baby boomers. This can be nothing but healthy in the long term.

    Pain breads change, and the bankruptices, consolidations, and removal of over capacity from the marketplace can do nothing but aide our economy in the long term, it’s sticking it out long enough to get there that is difficult. While wage freezes, wage reductions, loss of traditional pensions and other necessary things that occur as companies and workers struggle through the worst downturn in 70 years seem difficult this is not the world of the 1930s, and globalization and other trends continue to move forward. The rebound will come, and not because of government largess, but because the lack of spending is driving up back log demand in the system that sooner or later business’ and consumers will have to start to address. At that point the switch will slowly turn back on and more efficient companies and wiser workers will be ready to answer the call.

    The best thing that can be said for 2009 is that it is a once in a life time opportunity for both budsiness and employees to focus on driving up their competitiveness and marketability to be ready for the turn around.

    January 13, 2009

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