Over the last couple of weeks I’ve met with numerous past clients who survived the recession and now have thriving businesses. In speaking with them, I recognized they have similar perspectives on that period of time through which they all struggled to keep afloat. You might expect them to have negative attitudes towards those years of challenges and austerity, but quite the contrary is true. They now exhibit a hardiness and a strength, reminiscent of having gone through a tough time and come out stronger on the other side.
One of these clients, Erik, had to lay off more than 80 people–half of his 160-person professional service firm. It was fascinating to hear his “war” stories from the height of the recession–the pain of communicating the situation to his employees, trying to maintain a focused and forward-thinking direction in the midst of an unstable economic marketplace, attempting to be a better leader and maintain composure with the remaining team, believing that things would get better.
As I was listening to his stories, but more importantly, hearing his perspective today about the recession, it made me realize he is a Recession Warrior. He views the recession as a great learning experience. Having been forced to make very tough decisions, improve inefficiencies, and rethink their business model, he and his firm are now experiencing accelerated growth and he feels wiser and stronger to handle tough situations that arise. Of course he wouldn’t want to relive the recession again, with all the angst and stress it brought upon him and his organization, but he truly believes they are better for it.
This concept was reiterated in another client conversation I had that same week. Heather owns an event and promotion company and has had continued growth year after year. In speaking with her, I heard similar themes to those Erik had shared with me. She believed that the recession made her a better business person. She said she now makes more insightful decisions, is more cautious with how she spends her dollars, and has learned about minimizing debt. She also presented a sense of pride–or honor–having made it through the Great Recession. She said because of it, she knows all aspects of her business much better, and feels more solid as a leader. I mentioned the concept of the Recession Warrior and she loved it–she felt proud to have made it through the battle, and now her business is thriving.
In reflection, I think any business leader who has made it through the Great Recession has earned some battle scars. They have proven they are resilient and dedicated to keeping their businesses going, having evaluated everything they knew to be true about running a business, and rebuilding in a unpredictable economic time. These individuals are all Recession Warriors. Now as their organizations are growing again, and becoming more profitable than before, they are raising their heads from the foray and realizing what they truly have been through, and surprisingly that they feel they are better for it. Not one of them would want to relive those years, but they understand how it provided them the opportunity as leaders to test their own resolve and abilities in the face of an unforgiving marketplace.
Are you a Recession Warrior? If so, I encourage you to take time to reflect on how you have improved and grown as a leader because of the Great Recession. Acknowledge yourself as not just a survivor, but a warrior who is able now to handle challenging situations like never before. I would love to hear your stories as well, so email, Facebook, or Tweet me your thoughts.
This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.