A Tale of Two Novembers

Last November, things started getting scary around here. Clients began putting us on “hiatus.” A few closed up shop altogether. The word on the street was that businesses were responding to the economic meltdown with massive layoffs. As grim as the news was, the uncertainty made it worse. And we couldn’t do much about it because of the holidays. Short term, the only strategy was to hang on, ride it out and try to make it to 2009 in one piece.

As the New Year dawned and we surveyed the situation, we took a series of prudent, proactive measures to keep the Imagine Marketing ship afloat: cutting internal fat (but thankfully no team members), streamlining operations, improving our client relationships, becoming more visible in the community, putting more emphasis on social media and other Web-based solutions, adding even more value to everything we do.

I’m pleased to say that this November feels different. More hopeful. Nobody’s saying we’re out of the woods, but instead of losing clients, we’re re-engaging with old ones and picking up new ones. My theory is that, like us, companies are grateful to still be around. Now that they know they’re going to survive, they realize they’d better put the word out.

Looking into my extremely cloudy crystal ball, I also believe this holiday shopping season will be better than the last. With increasing confidence comes pent-up demand. I can already see crowds returning to shops and restaurants to take advantage of some exceptional deals.

Although many economists proclaim the Great Recession officially over, statistics certainly don’t tell the whole story. If someone’s out of work or struggling to get by, the recession isn’t over for them. Still, once things get back to some semblance of “normal,” (although I hope we never return to the previous overheated boom/bust economy), I trust we will always remember the lessons we’ve learned.

Here are a few of mine:

Hard work really does pay off. Sometimes, when you’re deep in the weeds, it doesn’t seem like it. But if you keep chipping away over time, you can see movement in the right direction. It’s empowering to know that we have a measure of control.

Smart work pays off, too. Crises are a time for reinvention and innovation. Many of the tactics we’ve implemented should have been put into place long ago. It’s easy to get complacent when times are good. The meltdown may have given us the painful but necessary kick in the pants we all needed. I know we’re a better company for it and I’m sure yours is, too.

Relationships rule. Bad news brought us all closer together. Foxhole mentality, misery loves company, call it what you will; I’m optimistic that the bonds we’ve forged will be permanent ones.

Steadiness saves the day. It’s good to keep everything in perspective. I often tell our team, halfway jokingly, “I’ll let you know when it’s time to panic.” So far, so good. We’re not surgeons or cops or firefighters facing life or death decisions. During the worst of the crisis, nobody died. (Once I contemplated jumping out my window but it’s only a 15-foot fall.) Business is important, but it’s only business after all.

That’s it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and knocking on wood that 2010 will bring more balance into our lives, that there aren’t any more nasty surprises lurking around the corner. In some of the presentations I’ve delivered, I sometimes mention that “This year seems like one long day.” I get appreciative nods and the occasional chuckle from the audience. But at the end of the (long) day, we’re all still here. That’s reason enough to be grateful in my book.

Thank you all. I wish you a healthy and happy holiday season. And a good night’s sleep.

Brian Rouff is the Managing Partner for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Brian at brouff@imnv.com

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