Surviving the Recession: How to Cope with Tough Times

July 16, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

All right, I’m officially over the recession. I’m tired of reading, writing, thinking, and talking about it. Most of all I’m tired of having to deal with it every day in our business. I long for the good ol’ days. For our industry — publishing — that was the go-go ’90s. But at this point I’d settle for anything pre-2008. But for some reason, even though I’m tired of it, the recession is undaunted by my feelings. It continues to rage on, taking its toll on all of us.

No one is exempt. Earlier this year Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, an executive recruiting firm, released data that showed 1,484 CEOs left the corner office in 2008. That number was the most since Challenger began the survey a decade earlier. Of course, some of the executives retired, others just walked away, and many were shown the door because of the poor performance of the companies they led. But it’s no coincidence that a record number of CEOs exited the corner office during the worst economic downturn since World War II.  No one in the current workforce has ever managed through anything like it. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun.

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Do Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures?

July 10, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Is anyone else concerned about the decisions being made by companies during the current economic crisis?  Let me rephrase that. Is anyone else concerned about the decisions being made by the PEOPLE inside some companies during the economic crisis?

Let’s face it, people make decisions. The decisions may be made on behalf of an organization, but they’re still made by individuals acting alone or as a group.  And, frankly, I’ve got big questions about some of the decisions being made.

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Business Strategy: Is Yours the Right One?

July 02, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about strategic planning lately. I guess when all hell is breaking loose, as it has been for many businesses of late, it becomes real easy to question the strategic direction of the company. When sales are falling or profits are eroding, when new ventures are struggling to gain traction or long-term successes are beginning to wane, one begins to question the strategic direction of the business. It’s probably second nature.

Reviewing your company’s strategic direction is never a bad thing. It never hurts to reconsider past assumptions or decisions to make sure that they’ve had the desired effect on the business. But a few words of caution if you’re considering reevaluating your business’ strategic plan: read more…

Top CEOs Show Some Reason for Optimism

June 26, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

On June 23, the Business Roundtable released its Second Quarter 2009 CEO Economic Outlook Survey and there is reason for some optimism. While it’s not all blue skies and sunshine, it does appear that the storm clouds may be clearing. Good news is rare these days so I thought the survey was worthy of some attention.

First a little about the Business Roundtable and the survey. The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of leading corporations, representing a combined workforce of nearly 10 million employees and more than $5 trillion in annual revenues. The CEO Economic Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002, provides a glimpse into the economic outlook of the member companies.

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Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain?

June 19, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

There has always been a lot of focus on quarterly earning reports, but given the current economic environment, this corporate ritual has come under even greater scrutiny. Everyone is trying to read the crystal ball and figure out what every little detail means. Sales are down 30% when compared to the same quarter but are 5% higher than analysts expected. Profits have plummeted 40%, but when compared to others in the industry, the company is holding up relatively well. What does it all mean?

This focus on quarter-by-quarter results seems wrong to me. Everyone is focused on the organization’s short-term performance instead of the long-term value. I understand that companies must do what is necessary to survive the current recession. But those companies that aren’t in jeopardy of extinction, yet sacrifice long-term goals in exchange for this quarter’s earnings, are making a huge mistake.

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Symbolism and the C-Suite: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

June 12, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

For the last decade, big companies and the people who run them have been some of the most despised and least trusted in America. In the 80s and 90s, “greed was good” as everyone benefited from a skyrocketing stock market. No one much cared what was going on in those big companies as long as the market was rising and so was everyone’s 401(k) right along with it.

But with the bursting of the tech stock market bubble, everyone’s retirement savings took a hit. That was followed quickly by the very public financial collapse of Enron where thousands of employees lost all of their retirement money because of the fraudulent activities of a few senior executives. Then in very quick succession we had the debacles at Tyco, Adelphia, and HealthSouth. The public’s trust in big business and those who run them was gone. And now the failure and the bailouts of some of this country’s largest institutions have been like throwing salt in an open wound.

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Protecting Your Greatest Assets During Tough Times

June 05, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Yesterday I received an e-mail from an employee in our company that really got me thinking. Her e-mail was about one of the less talked about effects of tough economic times. Her note contemplated how layoffs, or even the hint of layoffs, can cause a company to lose the employees it most desperately wants to retain. Here’s an excerpt from her e-mail:

“My husband’s company is facing layoffs as well. As we talked about it last night, he went down a small list of people he would choose to cut if the opportunity presented itself. The problem is, he has workers who are invaluable. Some of them work very closely with competitors. He’s concerned that if cuts are made, his strong workers — the ones that pull the load of two men — will be recruited away or become nervous and jump ship, leaving him with not enough workers.”

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Leadership and Teamwork

May 27, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

I grew up playing sports and have often looked back at those experiences to gain perspective on how a group of individuals might work together for a common goal. As I reflect on what caused certain teams to excel while others failed, I repeatedly come back to the subject of leadership. I believe the difference between an average team and an outstanding team is leadership.

To find out how obsessive I am on the subject of leadership, you only have to speak to my 12-year-old son. As my youngest, he’ll tell you that leadership is a topic that comes up often in our conversations and that it has become a running joke within the family. On the way to or from the ballpark, I’ll start to talk about what needs to happen or what needed to happen for his team to have a positive outcome. After years of these conversations, he can anticipate when I’m headed for the topic, and his usual response is, “Here comes the leadership speech.” In fact, there have been times that I’ve had him deliver it to me to make sure he’s been paying attention.

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A New Era in Business?

May 22, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Those who know me best would not consider me a sentimental person. In fact, my wife would probably laugh out loud if someone suggested that I was indeed sentimental. But with my oldest graduating from high school in a couple of days, it has caused me to think about what work life might be like for him four or five (hopefully four!!!!) years down the road.

It seems to me that we’ve experienced another sea change in the way business is being conducted. During my career I’ve seen the concept of life-long employment with gold watches and generous pensions at retirement come to an end. I’ve lived through the “greed is good” days of the ’90s. I’ve watched as younger employees approach work as a strict trading of talent and time for dollars. I’ve seen the impact the Internet has had on companies and the way they conduct business, and the changes are startling. Then we had the Enron, WorldComm, and Tyco debacles.

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Is Business Still Fun?

May 15, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and colleague — more friend than colleague. We were discussing the economy, business, and some of the challenges we’re experiencing at our company. As we wrapped up our conversation and I headed for the door, he asked me, “Are you all right?”

His question surprised me. I had to ask him what he meant by it. Of course, I’m “all right.” But he was being perceptive. The current economic environment and its impact on business is weighing on me and probably just about everyone else.

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