Which recession are you in, and how should that affect what you do about it?

by Donald Cooper, CSP

    I’ve been working with four clients over the past few weeks who all claim to be in a recession. And yet, in each case, their “recession” is very different—and each requires a different set of strategies and actions.

    For client No. 1, in the insulation business, their recession means they’ll have a sales increase of only 10 percent this year as opposed to the 24 percent increases that they’ve enjoyed each year since 2004. This is the kind of recession that many companies would love to have.

    For client No. 2, a retailer, they’re expecting sales to be down about 5 percent this year, followed by a rebound. This is the “slight blip” recession that requires some intelligent belt-tightening—but not drastic restructuring.

    Client No. 3, in automotive parts, has already had a sales decline of 35 percent—and it could get worse. Given the size of the sales decline and this company’s dependence on the failing domestic auto industry, drastic measures and, perhaps, a new business model are required.

    Finally, for client No. 4, in the mortgage-lending business in the United Kingdom, sales are off by a whopping 75 percent. Unless this client has very deep pockets or gets a government bailout, they will go into receivership or get bought out by someone with a Swiss bank account.

    So, saying that you’re in a recession is a bit like saying that you’re a vegetarian. It can mean many different things. I have “vegetarian” friends who are fine with seafood of any kind and chicken every once in a while.

    Then there are the ovo-lacto vegetarians, who will eat no meat or seafood, but eggs, vegetables and dairy products are fine. Vegan vegetarians are in the veggie-only camp, and then there are the fruitopians, who won’t eat a carrot because it kills the carrot; they eat fruit only because doing so doesn’t kill the tree.

    So, when someone tells you that he or she is a vegetarian, that doesn’t actually tell you much. And so it is with the “R” word. Each of us is in a different “recession” requiring different, specific and appropriate action.

    So, are you like the retailer looking at a short-term 5 percent “blip,” or are you more like Waterford Wedgwood, the famous crystal and fine china company founded in the 1700s, for whom this downturn was simply “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and who went into receivership in January?

    Make sure that you know which “recession” you’re in and take the appropriate action.

Donald Cooper, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), is an internationally known business coach and speaker who works with businesses on marketing, service and business excellence. He has helped thousands of companies throughout the world redefine and reinvent their businesses. For information on how Mr. Cooper can help your business create, deliver and communicate value, visit, e-mail or call (416) 252-3704.

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