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January 20 , 2009
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Survivors advise: Skip the worrying
We all know the difficulties businesses face these days, so what do we do
about them?
Executives from giants like WalMart and Bank of America, accounting firm
Morrison Brown Argiz & Farra and small businesses MD International and
Graphic Umbrella offered advice on surviving -- even thriving -- amid a
recession at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce panel last week.
What was interesting to me was how much of ''surviving'' a recession is not
about cutting costs or expanding into new lines of business.
Sure, companies should be scouring the storage closets for extra supplies. Or,
like Graphic Umbrella, they should look for new services they can sell to their
existing customers. More than ever, they need to get out of the office and talk
to their customers and suppliers and build relationships. And they should look
overseas for new markets, to diversify.
But surviving is in many ways a state of mind. How do you motivate employees
when you're tightening the belt? How do you stay sane, when you're working
your pants off to keep the company going?
And just as important, how do you make time between putting out fires at work
to step back and think strategically about actually innovating -- where do you
want your business to be when the recession becomes a rebound?
Al Merritt talked about the retreats his MD International holds each year for
employees and, sometimes, suppliers and customers. Camping in the jungle in
Brazil, walking in the desert, and that kind of thing more than pays for itself in
rbb Public Relations
January 20 , 2009
Pageviews : 210, 884
the dividends from team building, he says.
Marketing expert Dipak Jain, I think, would agree that managers often focus on
short-term moves at the expense of
big-picture planning. Speaking last week at an event for the Kellogg School of
Management he leads as dean, Jain talked too about the need to get closer to
your customers. That doesn't just involve asking customers what they think
about your product but really listening to them and figuring out which of their
problems you can solve.
Then, think differently. Jain, a former director of United Airlines, says airlines'
competition is not other airlines. It's videoconferencing. And why don't they
offer conference facilities at their airport clubs, so that executives from around
the globe can meet without the hassle and expense of navigating traffic and
''We need to think beyond conventional boundaries,'' Jain says.
Jain has some fascinating things to say about the difference between product
innovation, process innovation and business model innovation -- really
changing the rules of the game. (For more Dipak Jain wisdom, watch for his My
View column in next week's Business Monday):
But I liked this quote the best: ``Uncertainty is inevitable; worrying is optional.''
Lisa Gibbs is executive business editor.
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