Do you read The Hustle? It’s an online subscription news service that offers an edgier dive into the topics of the day. Mike and I have been subscribers for a number of years and recently were interviewed as part of an article on small businesses that made it through the great recession (LINK HERE). Admittedly, that’s a time we try to forget most days, but the exercise offered an opportunity to think about some very important lessons learned that still apply today. We thought we would share just a few with you:
Bad News Doesn’t Age Well
We always use this mantra with our clients, but we learned it also applies to us. During the recession, bad news was everywhere but you can’t allow yourself to be buried by it; can’t be afraid of it, can’t hide from it – put it front and center and deal with it.
Control what you can control and don’t worry about the other stuff – so what could we control?
- Communication with our clients and extended business family;
- Communication with the industry at large – we had a very strong natural network and so we made the conscious decision to be active within that network;
- We knew relevance would be defined differently on the other side, but we didn’t know exactly how, so being recognized as a thought leader within your group allowed us in some ways to help define relevance in the new eco-system;
- Be honest and transparent – there’s no premium on being too up or down; this is the time and place for being thoughtful and pragmatic. People appreciate honesty and humility.
Trust your instincts – after all that’s what got you here! This might be the most important thing we learned! But what does it mean?
- Resist the temptation to force things – when you do you run the risk of being seen as either tone deaf or opportunistic – sometimes the best decision is to do nothing;
- By the same token, don’t be paralyzed or indecisive – employees and clients need to see that you are not afraid to lead – whatever the direction, be steadfast and lead, even if it means doing nothing;
- Attitude is important – have faith and believe you can get through it – not once in the last recession did we envision not being around in the future; we thought A LOT about HOW we were going to be around, but never IF we would be around;
- Always work in the client’s best interests even when their interests may not be your best interests in the short term. For a small company like ours it’s hard to tell a client that is ready to pay you tens of thousands of dollars that they shouldn’t, but sometimes that’s what needs to be done. Bite the bullet, do the right thing and make it work for you.
Great time for innovation and creativity
- The last recession forced us to become more problem solvers than strictly fundraisers, and as a result, the consulting side of our business established a foothold and continues to grow today.
- Right now, we are focusing on updating our website and building our strategic communications platform within our network. We also continue to build our virtual capabilities since we know virtual meetings will be much more prominent for the next few years (at least!).
There are many more stories and anecdotes we could share about our experiences coming through both the great recession and the post 9/11 induced economic downturn. Suffice it to say, we figured it out and perhaps that’s the most important lesson of all. Never doubt your ability to think strategically about what’s in front of you. If you didn’t have that capability, you probably would not be in the position you are today. So, go with it, trust your gut and believe that we will get through this!