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Thursday, February 21, 2008
8:30am Pacific/11:30am Eastern/3:30pm GMT

Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden will be the featured guests on a live 60-minute webinar, hosted by Globoforce, a leading global provider of strategic recognition solutions.

Entitled "Work is Contractual - Effort is Personal", the webinar will be based on our latest book, Contented Cows MOOve Faster.

10 Things to Do (and NOT Do) in an Uncertain Economy

by Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden

Though it's difficult to tell what's going on with the economy, the presence of persistently high oil prices, coupled with the continued unwinding of the sub- prime mortgage mess, and a nervous Fed, it seems that we're destined for a bit of a rough patch, regardless of how you classify it.

Though we're as prone to be wrong as anyone else, one of the benefits of having earned a few gray hairs (more so Richard than Bill, proving that age has little to do with it), is having experienced things that do and don't work in an uncertain economy. To wit, here is our contribution on measures businesses should and should not be entertaining for the foreseeable future:

1. First and foremost, remember that the best way to weather turbulent times is with the willing engagement of a focused, fired-up, capably led workforce. Avoid senseless, knee-jerk reactions guaranteed to make workers power back a notch or two. Things like layoffs du jour (unless survival is truly at stake), poorly thought out pay cuts (especially incentive pay), and petty cutbacks. When you do make necessary cuts, remember - managers bleed first.

2. Don't let fear cause your workforce to disengage. Asking people to be judicious about expenses is one thing - injecting an unnecessary dose of fear into the workplace is another. The degree to which employees are concerned about losing their jobs varies inversely with the degree to which they are concerned with doing their jobs, and taking care of customers.

3. Don't try to work your way out of a short-term earnings problem by "dumbing down" the organization. One of the first shoes to fall in a questionable economy usually lands squarely on top of the organization's training budget. If you're doing unnecessary training, you should stop it anyway, but the notion that we can somehow help the business by deferring necessary training is intellectually bankrupt. Think about that the next time you fly or have surgery.

4. Don't (repeat, Don't) stop recruiting. If anything, redouble your recruiting efforts. In case you didn't notice, Warren Buffett, one of the savviest investors of all time, closed deals to buy two businesses the week before Christmas, and another last week. He's on a buying spree because, with a shaky economy, things are getting cheaper, to include good businesses that he'd like to add to his Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. The same principle applies to rounding up talented people. They are out there. Go find them, and start a conversation with them now.

5. Don't be afraid to talk candidly with your people about how the business is doing. The one thing that distracts people more than anything else is not knowing what's going on. As psychologist Karl Jung observed, "When facts are few, opinions loom large." Every minute your folks spend wondering or worrying is a minute your customers are being ignored.

6. Crank up your "hi touch." Going through a difficult economic period impacts more than just business interests. We're all affected personally as well, some more than others. This is an excellent time to show that you care by spending a bit more quality time with the people on your team, listening to them, and making sure they have what they need. Especially those on the front line. Don't pry, but sharpen your awareness of special circumstances. Has a spouse been downsized? A mortgage foreclosed on? Watch for signs of added stress. Don't play psychologist, but make sure your Employee Assistance Program is ready to respond and help where needed.

7. Do some good. One thing that helps keep people's spirits up is to be involved in a project that helps those who are less fortunate. This is an excellent time to get your team involved in a worthwhile service project, be it a charity drive, building a Habitat for Humanity house, or something else.

8. Pay extra attention to your customers. Too many businesses hunker down and go below the radar when economic growth slows. This is the time to show customers you care about them. If you do, chances are you'll exit the current rough patch with better customer relations, and maybe more customers.

9. Pay attention to both your accounts receivable and payable. Initiate conversations with slow payers earlier than you otherwise might; on the flip side, don't stretch out your suppliers. In fact, one of the best investments you can make is to pay your suppliers (especially the small businesses) quickly. Trust us, they will notice, and you will notice their extra effort on your behalf.

10. Smile. That's right, smile, and do it more often. The fact that things are getting a little shaky and people are scared (yes, you probably are, too) doesn't overturn the principle that people prefer to associate with those who are positive and optimistic. Your smile will brighten the day of the folks around you, they'll get more done, and feel better about it, too.

Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.

Contact Bill (901- 853-9646) or Richard (904-720-0870), and let's talk about how we can make your next meeting a colossal success!

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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