by Alice Waagen, Ph.D.
Owner, Workforce Learning
As the owner of a small consulting business that has weathered more than 11 years of good and bad economies, I know one thing to be certain: this recession / depression shall pass.
But since cash flow can get a little rocky, history has also shown me to be mindful of expenses. I’m willing to admit that my business has dropped off about 30% since September and, like almost everyone I know, I am feeling the pinch. Sure it seems logical — instinctive even — to cut back on every nonessential expense, but I know from personal experience this isn’t always the case.
Following are several things leaders SHOULD NOT cut out of their business or personal plans this time of year:
1. DO NOT cut back on marketing investments. This will do long-term damage to your overall visibility, and likely prolong the recovery of your business. That’s why this is my number one DO NOT item, for cutting out this essential program will starve your pipeline of new business for the upcoming year and halt the momentum you’ve worked so hard to get rolling.
2. DO NOT start letting those negative voices in your head get the best of you. This is a huge issue, because it’s easy to get sucked into negative headlines and develop a woe-is-me attitude. Whenever you feel yourself wanting to hang your head, do whatever it takes to maintain an upbeat, positive outlook.
3. DO NOT think you are alone. Everybody is scared. If you approach prospective clients looking or sounding insecure, they’ll run to another provider. Dress beautifully, put a smile on your face, and project a solid, self-assured attitude and image.
4. DO NOT turn a blind eye to the realities of the financial situation. Yes, I am all for optimism, but be wary of last-minute business purchases just to increase expenses on the books for tax purposes. Cash flow is your real focus, and huge purchases in December will haunt you in the first quarter of 2009 — especially if you don’t have much business booked.
This is a great time to exercise a little monetary restraint — but not at the expense of your happiness. Following are some thoughts on ways you can cut back without cutting out the holiday fun.
5. DO NOT cut out all holiday celebrations. But unless you really enjoy being around your professional peers, attend only the most high-profile holiday parties for the associations and professional groups you belong to. Remember, the objective of these events is merry-making, and little business will come your way, so choose wisely.
6. DO NOT deprive your loved ones of a nice celebration. If you normally spend time with family and money on gifts during the holidays, cutting back will make you feel more depressed. So rather than act like Scrooge 2008, get creative with your gift ideas and cut back with caution while maintaining the spirit of giving and love.
7. DO NOT be afraid to try new things. At my house, we used to head to the nearby cineplex for movie-and-pizza night a couple of times a month. We’ve traded in those pricey movie tickets for a weekly game night and homemade pizza. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars, and the family bonding can be truly spectacular when family members have to work through a brain-bending board game.
8. DO NOT forget to spread good cheer to everyone you love. Just as you know it is important to dress for success — don’t cut back on reaching out to family and friends who live far away. I always send a holiday message to everyone I know, and although I don’t have stellar sales figures to report this year, who wants to hear about that anyway? To cut back on costs, I’m sending my holiday card via email this year, which is saving me precious time and money.
ABOUT Alice Waagen’s Workforce Learning
Workforce Learning LLC is a leadership development company that provides managers and C-level executives with the skills and knowledge they need to build a more productive work environment. Since founding the company in 1997, owner Alice Waagen, PhD, has developed highly effective leadership programs and coaching workshops that teach the people in charge how to motivate and inspire employees. “Research shows that the single reason most organizations fail to thrive is a lack of strong people skills among those at the top,” Alice says. “We work to ensure organizations are healthy from the top down, and ultimately if an organization has happy, energized, effective employees they find it reflected in the bottom line.” For more information, visit www.workforcelearning.com.