These Are Perilous Times. What Else Is New?

Establish Habits That Will Get You Through Good Times and Bad

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
The day after the "bailout" bill failed in Congress and the stock market closed in the gutter, some not so unusual things happened: The sun came up, people went back to work and the stock market closed up by almost 500 points.

This is not an indication that everything is going to be rosy in the near future, but it does show that what some in our government said would happen didn't. The sky didn't fall. Granted, there is work to be done to correct the problems in our financial industry, but it will happen. We will survive and eventually flourish once more.

A number of our employees have asked my partners and me if this economic situation is going to adversely affect us. Who knows what the future holds? Good or bad economy, ours is a precarious business to be in. Like the person who lives at a higher standard of living than they can afford, an agency cannot live beyond its means without dire consequences in lean times.

Does this mean to weather a difficult economy you simply need to live within your means? Not exactly, but it's the foundation of survival. The old adage that prevention is the best cure does apply in building that foundation. Here are a few common hazards that can plague an agency's health. By avoiding them you can insure that your agency will survive lean times.
  • Don't get fat. Monitor your agency's billable time on a weekly basis. There is ebb and flow to workload, but if your employees consistently have a high ratio of non-billable time you're probably over-staffed. If you are, make adjustments. Don't live on the hope that things will pick up when there is nothing on the horizon.

  • Don't be dead weight. Too many times an agency partner can become a watcher instead of a doer. This is a drain on an agency's ability to invest in its future. When times get tough, this situation can negatively affect employees who are now asked to do more with less. Do more than your share of the real work. It will save you money and keep morale high.

  • Operate as if times were bad even when they are good. Being prudent in your expenditures should be a way of life, not a reaction to economic distress. We have a green building, so we employ a lot of environmentally friendly practices that actually cut our operating costs. For example, using paper only when necessary should be practiced on a daily basis. I'm not saying that this example is the cure, but an example of an attitude that, when used in everything it does, will keep your agency in shape for tougher times.

  • Be an optimist. Champion sports teams all have something in common: They never stop believing that they can win. Even when it looks like success is out of reach, a champion believes it is not. This demeanor has a positive effect on employees, clients and prospects. People want to be a part of a winning team. Don't let dark clouds scare you into running for cover. Play on. If you win, you have set your company up for long-term success. If you lose, you went down swinging.
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