Economic concerns have become frightening

The news has been bleak nationally, globally and locally for credit, investments and rising unemployment. Today’s news is wildly conflicting. Manufacturing in the U.S. is at it’s lowest level since 1948, on the one hand. And GM and Chrysler received their initial bridge loans prompting the stock market to surge 200 points, the largest rally since November. Our economy is on a roller coaster of ups and downs.

As a management consultant and business coach, I have been advising clients throughout 2008 to trim expenses, particularly payroll. In the last weeks of the year, I’ve been speaking to business groups urging owners NOT to cut payroll. Instead, focus upon how to improve products and services, specifically by quickly improving the training and development of staff, and thereby increase customer satisfaction.

What do your clients value most in what you offer? How might you add value? Communicate directly with your clients. Collaborate with them closely in the products and services which they need most. This is the time to insure your customers know you’re there and focused on meeting their most crucial needs. Meet with your employees to engage them. If they wish to remain employed, they must focus on better serving customers deepest needs. Make your workforce more productive. Additional layoffs will weaken your firm’s profit engine and only accelerate the economic decline and worsen foreclosures and the economy.

Today I’m going to talk briefly about three business concepts which I consider particularly relevant: creative destruction, appreciative inquiry and project management.

Creative Destruction

One way we may look at this current economic period is as a time of “Creative Destruction.” The idea of creative destruction was introduced in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Mikail Bekunin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Werner Sombart. Sombart wrote Krieg und Kapitalismus (War and Capitalism) in 1913 (p. 217), where he wrote: “again out of destruction a new spirit of creativity arises.” Companies and products that once dominated societies and cultures are replaced. Examples of companies include Xerox in copiers and Polaroid in cameras. Walmart has replaced Montgomery Ward, KMart and Sears by using superior marketing and management of inventory and personnel. Product examples include cassettes replaced by 8-tracks, then CDs and now mp3s.

Successful innovation leads to market power which erodes the profits of existing giants only to itself succumb to the pressure from new entrants to the field. General Electric is the third largest company in the world. It has survived by routinely reinventing itself. GE has used the principle of creative destruction with their product lines scaling back and then discontinuing products which are still profitable if new innovations are not introduced. This is done to keep their lines fresh, creative and dynamic.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is building on what’s working, not fixing what’s broken. What is working best and how can you expand that in your company? Work with your employees to identify what your customers love most about what your firm does. Collaborate with them on how to deliver it faster, better and cheaper. Then, collaborate with your customers on how those products solve their problems and together figure out how to meet your clients’ deeper needs faster, better and cheaper. Innovate to survive.

Project Management

Project Management is a science of getting things done with groups of people. Every organization has stalled projects and dilemmas. Learn more about project management methods to accelerate your project completion. I am one of a group of consultants offering free workshops on a variety of management methods to help groups adapt to our challenging times. We connect businesses with the exact skills and knowledge needed via networks of business resources.

Free Business Assessments

We offer free business assessments to collaborate with owners, evaluating what projects hold the greatest promise for their business sustainability and survival.

To conclude, an attitude of aptitude is essential to avoid depression when chaos is everywhere. Each of us must be leaders, take control of our direct individual situation and makle the best we can with it. We can’t just give up, sit in bed and pull the covers over our heads. Yes, there are problems, so what there have always been problems. Let’s look at what is working. With credit stopped, we’re reducing debt. Is it hard? Of course, but it’ll force us to be more creative and value what we have.

How do I provide value and to whom?

Can I meet my clients’ needs more effectively? What would help my clients fulfill their needs better, faster or cheaper? Promotion of our staff, product and service will capture clients’ attention. Then as the market recovers, our market share will expand and we will have grown and benefited. The time is NOW to organize priorities, establish what’s needed and train staff to take responsibility to do the same with their departments. We can do this! What’s next? What can we do together? Where shall we start?