Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 | 11:03 a.m.
In 2008 I was pretty sure we would talk ourselves into a recession. I felt we were at the tipping point and that we could either talk ourselves into or out of a recession. By the end of 2008 and into 2009, we were indeed in the midst of the most difficult financial crisis that many of us had ever seen first hand. Although I entered 2009 optimistically, it turned out to be the most difficult year of my career. Never before had I experienced the things I did in 2009. It was difficult year both on a business and personal level.
As difficult as 2009 was for mine and many businesses, I also think it was a year of growth and maturity for us. We learned many things. We learned we could overcome obstacles that prior to 2009, we hadn’t even contemplated. I learned first hand that difficult personal issues can effect performance in business as well as in life. I also learned that we are a resilient species and have the inner capacity to adapt, evolve, and grow during difficult times and experiences.
As we head into 2010 and begin a new decade, I am reminded of how uncertain we were as we entered the last decade. Remember the Y2K virus that was supposed to change everything? Today, on the cusp of 2010, I am filled with optimism. While the financial crisis is not over, there are some good signs that a shift to better times is beginning. And while the past two years have been very difficult and will be remembered for a long time, there are several good things that have emerged:
The importance of relationships. Businesses became focused on relationships with their clients once again. During the past ten-year boom, many businesses forgot that clients and relationships with them were the life-blood of business. With the economy tightened, the next client did not line up to walk in the door unsolicited. Many businesses recognized this and how important it is to treat clients well and take care of their needs. This shift to better customer service and appreciation was felt in the service industry, the halls of corporate America, and in the retail stores. Once again, consumers knew that companies appreciated their business.
A return to the “basics.” In addition to delivering better customer service, business returned to the basic tenet of “providing value to the customer.” Many businesses remembered that this was what made them successful to begin with. Businesses reached out in a more personal way in 2009. I received more phone calls from people with whom I conducted business this year than I can remember. And I, in turn, called my clients more often than in previous years. These calls were at first met with skepticism, but after a few months were definitely appreciated and helped build stronger bonds. This personal touch helped business understand more fully what its clients and customers needed.
Authentic networking. Over the years, I have grown tired of the typical networking event where everyone in attendance pounces upon you to tell you how great they are and how they can help your business without even knowing or caring who you are or what your business is or does. This seemed to change in 2009. I’m not sure exactly why, but people seemed to be less sales-oriented and more friendship focused at the networking events I attended. I sensed that the hard sales approach had been replaced with a more authentic relationship building scenario. These stronger relationships should pay dividends in the coming years for those who took the time to build them.
More focus on things that matter. It seems to me that people generally focused more on the things that mattered such as family, hard work, being a good citizen, giving back to the community, to name a few. With business not consuming every single minute of our lives, we rediscovered the important things in our lives. We found ways to enjoy each others company in a more personal way and realized that it was the connections between us that really mattered.
Let us remember the things we learned in 2009 and apply them fully in 2010. Let us maintain the balance as we go forward into the new year.
Wishing you the best in 2010!
Until next time…