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2009.08.28

Green Shoots

Had my TEC meeting where my peers, guests and I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Dietrich from Institute for Trend Research . He spoke for over three hours and there were plenty of complicated charts and graphs as well as many very simple and straightforward takeaways.

First of all, the last year has been brutal. For virtually everyone. When asked if the last year has been defining for our businesses, virtually all hands shot up. When asked if the last year has been defining for us personally, again almost every hand shot up. We have all been, in Jeff's words, slammed. As a result, virtually everyone personally and professionally has experienced a permanent course correction.

From a national perspective, it is as bad or worse than you have been thinking. Obama's 10-year deficit projections, which have already been revised upwards once (and probably need to be revised another time or two,) reveal an escalating national debt that is virtually incomprehensible. Debt service relative to our GNP will be staggering. So, what will we do? Or should I say what will Washington do? It is pretty simple, we will either perish as a nation under our debt burden or, more likely, start to pay it back. That means increased taxes, no matter what politicians are telling you, and more fees. Lot's of fees. We will also pull out of this dire situation, in part, by paying back what we have borrowed with devalued currency. You can go ahead and bank on it, inflation in 2011 and 2012.

There's good news, though. We saw graph after graph showing precpitous declines in economic measures. And, in some cases, we saw little hooks at the end of lines tracking progress. The hooks represented a change from decline to improvement. Ah yes, the green shoots of an economy poised for, and some would say experiencing, an improvement. We were told by politicians they existed in January but it just wasn't so.

So, what should be our response to the mixed message of doom and gloom and the emerging green shoots? First of all, do what you need to do in order to make it through the valley. You gotta be with us as things turn.

We need our clients to be there too, right? How can we help clients be there, poised for growth when things really turn. Personally, I have overlooked a couple of lagging receivables when I could. We have also bartered our services with great success. We have also seen that when we can save a client time, those ideas have been quickly embraced as they are doing more with less as well. 

Next, think about how we can capitalize on the pessimism that exists and won't go away soon. Can we change the focus and inspire clients to invest in their people? They more than likely have eliminated underachivers and trouble makers and are asking their keepers to do more. A focus on these people as green shoots emerge seems obvious.

Part of the new normal seems to be that we are all striving to do more with less. That means we need to create and maintain an engaged workforce, distribution partners, vendors and customers. Measure engagement. There are lots of tools. Pay attention to engagement metrics and identify trends. And use our investments in engagement wisely.

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