Every Crisis has a Silver Lining


Where to begin? Good news? Bad news?

I mean, it’s desperate isn’t it? The other week Mervyn King announced another £75bn of Quantative Easing, talking about the “worst crisis ever.”

Then the October figures from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply came out, showing manufacturing “dropping like a stone” to a 28 month low. David Noble, the Chief Executive said, “We live in worrying times” and reported that the mood among his members was “sombre.”

And that’s before you factor in the latest Greek crisis. I’m writing this on Thursday morning. They’re going ahead with the referendum. Merkel hates Sarkozy. A Europe-wide recession is inevitable. And it’ll probably be even worse by the time you read the blog.

So the situation’s damn near hopeless. There’s nothing for it but to batten down the hatches, take no risks at all and hope you’re still in business when the storm’s blown itself out. If it ever does.

And yet. And yet…

Today is November 4th.

170 years ago today the first wagon train arrived in California.

17 years ago today the first ever conference was held looking at the commercial potential of something called the World Wide Web.

And three years ago today a hopelessly inexperienced politician from Chicago with a ridiculous name and funny ears became the first African American President of the United States.

The settlers in California; the Web pioneers; Barack Obama – they didn’t batten down the hatches. They took risks, because they believed in something. And they believed passionately.

No, the economy does not look promising right now. Then again, travelling acrossAmericain a covered wagon with the Sioux on one side of you and the Comanche on the other probably didn’t look too promising at times either. But the settlers had a simple goal – to reach California and to start a new life. And if you have a simple goal – to see your business succeed – then stick to it and you’ll get there.

Clearly there are some basic things all businesses should be doing in these tough times. Make sure you cut out all unnecessary expenditure (just go through your outgoings and ask ‘do I really need to spend this?’) Make sure you give outstanding customer service; keep your debtors under control and keep up to date with technology.

But it’s still OK to dream – so keep your faith and keep your focus as well. Maybe that’s where The Alternative Board can help. Anyone running a business right now is bound to be gaining a few grey hairs: we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t need some support at times. As I’ve said, the only people who truly understand the pressures are other business owners. And maybe they’re the only people who understand the dreams as well.

Despite everything, there are still some great opportunities out there, and still some companies making giant strides. Ten years from now you want to be able to look back (possibly as you pay for your sunbed in drachmas again!) and say, ‘Yep, those were tough times. But I never lost sight of what I wanted to achieve. And look where I am today…’

Have a great weekend. And keep dreaming…

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11 comments

  1. Rory Ryan · November 4, 2011

    Keeping the faith is what it’s all about Ed. September was pretty bleak for my business but with encouragement from you and others I have stuck with it. Just last week a connection that I met 10 years ago finally paid off with a referral! And despite everything I have managed to net more business in this quater than the previous two! Onwards and upwards.

    • edreidyork · November 4, 2011

      Keep the faith indeed! Great to hear the positives Rory – thanks for sharing

  2. David Emslie · November 4, 2011

    Just to prove I read this …. the first wagon train arrived in California in 1941?
    Oops. Wikipedia has a lot to answer for.

    • edreidyork · November 4, 2011

      Great spot David; I’ve amended the typo. It was 170 years ago, not 70!! Not Wiki’s fault, just my typing ability…

  3. Steven Partridge · November 4, 2011

    Some good advice I received when working in a previous role was to save the worrying for things you can control. I think it helps maintain focus on things you can do to move forward.

    • edreidyork · November 4, 2011

      Steven – couldn’t agree more; control the controllables, and don’t fret about the rest – terrific advice – thank you

  4. Chris Wilson · November 4, 2011

    Might be time to stop watching the news, and spend that half or so doing something more positive, strategic and uplifting. The world still needs to turn, and I’m not for getting off the escalator of growth just yet thanks

    • edreidyork · November 4, 2011

      “The escalator of growth” is brrrrrrilliant Chris! Your thoughts tie in with Dave’s below; the news is undoubtedly not helping confidence, and by doing the positive things ourselves, we’re taking back control

  5. Dave Rawlings · November 4, 2011

    The current crisis seems to be about confidence and fairness. So, if we look forward to a better future and always strive to do the right thing, we can actually make a difference.

    How do you keep positive? Well, Dame Edna Everidge said something like, “I always take great comfort from the misfortunes of others”!

    Sadly, there seems to be plenty of misfortune around.

    • edreidyork · November 4, 2011

      Dave – I can rely on you to pull out the quotes from arguably untraditional business sources! Dame Edna Everidge strikes me as a pretty astute lady generally, if a little naughty with these kind of observations…

  6. Simon Hudson · November 7, 2011

    One can choose to be like an ostrich or a Dover Sole in there uncertain times. I’ll accept we are in deep water, but still look up at the stars.

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