A Publication of WTVP

In a historical vote, the House passed a $700 billion relief bill of the financial industry in an effort to breathe life into a seriously ailing economy. Congressional leaders immediately sent the bill to President Bush, who signed it into law less than 90 minutes later. With unnerving headlines and words like recession and downturn buzzing around, it is hard for many people to remain optimistic. For some, it is even more difficult when representing a company as its leader and struggling to convey a positive attitude. Presenting yourself as a strong leader with proven processes for leading a firm into the future, despite these turbulent economic times, is essential.

Positive Communication is Key
Emotions from business leaders during an economic downturn can be all across the board. They can range from solid, steadfast and confident, to overstressed and panicked with a “deer-in-the-headlights” mentality. The latter leaders could be detriments to their companies and may put their business in jeopardy.

It is important that business leaders be decisive and don’t ignore what is happening around them. By being positive, yet realistic about your company and its future, you will be better positioned to deliver solid, honest and respected communications.

Borrowing a philosophy from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “Six Principles of Leadership,” communication is essential to any successful endeavor. Giuliani states that “communication is how you motivate others to greater performance. To be a leader, you have to care about people. To be a great leader, you have to love them. You have to understand them. You must take responsibility for things that are going wrong and understand others’ personal lives as well because we are all human beings.”

Situation Calls for “Back-to-Basics” Philosophy
Companies that have maintained business-to-business principles, taken a conservative approach with their finances and cash liquidity, and have modest debt levels will fare much better in this uncertain economy than businesses that have taken more risks. Understanding what has led to the success of your business is key to maintaining a healthy future.

Get back to basics by returning to those business processes that are tried and true, those that have proven successful in the past. Few businesses will remain unscathed by the recent economic developments, but it is important to face challenges head-on and develop processes that address these issues and build for the future. The key is implementation of policies that have a proven track record of success with your company.

To Grow, or Not to Grow?
Today’s uncertain economic environment has some leaders asking, “Is this the best time to grow my business?” According to a recent survey of 125 senior financial executives in a wide range of industries, 73 percent say the turmoil on Wall Street makes them anxious about the ability of their companies to carry out strategic plans. Others see the downturn in the economy as the greatest opportunity to grow their businesses and plan for the future. It is essential that a company know its risks and the potential outcome of being too aggressive, given the situation on Wall Street. Companies have to be cautious but realistic within the current economic landscape. Businesses with this attitude are better positioned to weather the storm.

Live in the Present, Plan for the Future
The way I see it, there are two philosophies that companies must adopt when building for the future.

First, avoid temptation. Businesses with a short-term “glance” mentality often lose focus on the future. For instance, succession planning should always be on the strategic agenda of growing companies. But many times it is easier for a business to focus on current challenges and issues, rather than on the impact a lack of succession planning will have on its future. The fact is, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attract and retain quality talent to maximize growth opportunities. This is not going to change given our current economic climate. Many market analysts believe it is only going to get worse. Staying afloat in this uncertain economy often strikes a stronger chord with business leaders, and many times, they give into temptation and push future endeavors aside. This is not the right step.

Second, look for opportunities to build for your company’s future by involving members of your team who would not normally have a role in the strategic direction of your firm. By involving new recruits, members of the new generation or seasoned professionals, you create a much more fluid environment for discussion. Implementing this principle allows these employees to be a part of the process, offer their perspective, build strategy into their career development initiatives and see the vision of the firm. So avoid the temptation, stay in the game and refine your company’s processes going forward to involve the new generation.

A balanced message is key for representing yourself as a strong leader during an uncertain economy. On the one hand, leadership has to present a case for the organization to perpetuate itself. Company leaders must remain optimistic about the opportunities a company has, despite the downturn in the economy. Resurfacing past processes and procedures with proven track records of success should be evaluated by leaders looking to build for their company’s future. Leaders should ask themselves, “Is this a good time to grow my business?” At the same time, leaders need to remain “real” and take into account the current economic climate and its impact on their business. Leaders who remain honest, but optimistic, can feel confident they are better positioned to lead their company into the future. iBi