How to Roll Strong Into 2010

January Isn't Going to Just Bring You Better Business

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
I like eavesdropping at airports (where I am right now). You get a great temperature of how business people are feeling about things. My ears especially perk up when people talk about the coming year. Based on what I've heard, you would think Dec. 31 will be the day we flip a switch and, like Dorothy opening Auntie Em's front door after the storm, everything will change from dingy brown to glorious Technicolor.

Don't get me wrong I love the idea of winding up in Oz. But let's face it: It's not going to change from gloom to glory overnight. We are going to have to fight our way back to a reasonably healthy economy. It may take years.

There will be those in our industry who will flourish soon, before things are fully recovered. I believe that these fortunate ones will act in the same way that we encourage our clients to behave: Spend when your competition is huddled in a bunker. Invest when every instinct says hoard.

I'm not talking about being foolhardy, but about being insightful and confident. I would like to believe this is how my agency has behaved this past year. We certainly have tried to look to where we want to be when all of this horror is over, rather than ducking for cover. So what else can agencies do, without taking a huge risk, to insure we're on the upward trajectory when things pick up?

Work harder. I don't mean more hours. After all, there are only 24. I mean focus on what matters and make it count. Concentrate on doing more than your clients expect. If your agency is like most, you have more time available. Why not show your clients that you are more engaged by going the extra mile? Make the presentation of your agency more attractive. Give your employees an assignment to improve the agency. Use time imaginatively and productively. Once the clock ticks it by, it's gone forever.

Communicate. Not much good to talk about? You're not looking hard enough. Even if it is how great everyone is being in the face of hardship, talk about it in your staff meetings, e-mails, etc. And don't be afraid to be the bearer of bad news. Ask for help from your people. The stars in your company will rise and help you succeed.

Celebrate with the troops. Why do you think Bob Hope was so popular over the years? His jokes certainly got stale by the time he was in his 50s (and he lived to be 100), but for decades he went overseas and entertained our troops in extremely dangerous places, because it was something he could do for the cause of freedom. Be a patriot for your company and rally people's spirits with some simple celebrations. We celebrated launching a client website because it was the first we had done completely in-house. We had brownies and fruit. The chatter in the office the rest of the afternoon was filled with laughter.

Walk and talk. The economy can't kill what makes your agency a great place to work; only you can. It has no effect on your imagination or your will to succeed; only you do. It can't keep you from smiling, or patting someone on the back. Move around your office and talk to everyone at least once a day. Give them that pat on the back and encouraging smile. Your employees might actually value it more than a bonus or pay raise. Because they know as soon as you can, you will reward them with something as trivial as money.

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