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Bad recession, good opportunity

As I write this, Barack Obama is officially president, banks are begging for more bail-outs, and NPR news is still saying this recession may be as bad as the Great Depression. Okay, now what?

I say let's be proactive. This is a great time to focus on staying out of trouble, being more efficient, and going after new opportunities. Here are a few thoughts on how to leverage processes.

Stay out of trouble

Before we can focus on anything, the top priority is to stay out of trouble. That can mean anything from tying to find out who knows what to staying out of jail. For example, a very short-term issue many will experience is the after effects from layoffs. Knowledge has gone out the door. To stop any further loss, now is the time to get everyone to document their processes. (By the way, don't reduce your audit staff before you capture regulation or compliance processes that could keep top executives out of jail.)

Be more efficient

Not only should we capture everyone's knowledge, we should take advantage of this knowledge along with new thinking to become more efficient. This can mean doing more with less. When sales were booming, we were all too busy with market growth and throwing away money wasn't such an issue. In this economy the phone is not ringing off the hook and we no longer have money to toss, so now is the time to look at efficiency focus projects. We first need to encapsulate current practices, track success, and then quickly evolve those steps into new best practices that generate efficiencies.

Go after new opportunities

New opportunities could be developing smarter marketing campaigns, new sales techniques, or even enhancing our process on business proposal submissions. Our competitors are most likely hunched down with their heads in the sand. They too are cutting back, laying off, and not advertising. Many are dropping new product development and other initiatives that would normally do harm to our own businesses. So, let them! What ever we do will be much easier to stand out in this economy. While everyone is crying, we can be scheming!

Again, think about establishing new processes systematically, because if it's systematic, it can be easily executed, governed, and enhanced. Which processes will be based on top priorities? If we are losing sales in this economy, it's not the sales team's fault, it's the process no longer working. This means we need to try new approaches and do so quickly. If our processes are defined, then changing them on a dime will be easier. We will also be able to justify the changes.

Our three-tiered approach is not only important to help us with the economy crisis, but it will also be critical when the economy starts to pick up. If our processes are systematic and executable, just think of the power we will all have coming out of the gate. When our competitors are just popping up their heads to look around we'll be miles down the road capturing new growth and doing so with much less baggage!