The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner. Are You Ready?

By Dana Borowka, MA

Whoever coined the phrase, “What goes up, must come down” must have been an economist. Nothing does a better job of explaining the cyclical nature of our economy. The problem faced by business managers is that once we’ve identified which part of the cycle we’re in, it’s too late to do anything about it. Forecasting the next upturn or downturn, and preparing accordingly, is the secret to business survival.

To give our friends and clients time to adjust for the next change in the economic cycle, we’re recently held a special Open Line web event entitled, “Planning for the Next Recession – Now!”: AudioSlides.

The purpose of this article is to highlight a few of the points our panelists explored in more detail: Why expect a recession and what to do now to prepare your business for it.

The Ups and Downs of the U.S. Economy

History has proven there is a 7-10 year cycle in the U.S. that consists of periods of recession, recovery, accelerating growth, and declining growth. Like clockwork, every decade we cycle through all the stages. The last recessionary period was 2008-2009. Since then we’ve experienced a long period of recovery culminating in what some expect as accelerating growth in 2017. So far so good. But remember, what goes up must come down.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner

If the U.S. economy has been climbing its way out of the recession for the past eight years, we’re approaching the time when we can and should expect another steep downturn.

There will be another recession in the U.S. The only real question is when, but based on historical trends, that time is only 1-2 years away.

It’s important to note here that I’m talking about the “normal” economic cycles we experience, not those triggered by major unforeseen events such as occurred September 11, 2001, or the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Recession? You’re Crazy, Business is Great!

For most of our clients and readers, business is good to great. Everyone is bullish about higher sales and profitability in 2017.

However, the clock is ticking. Our panelists on February 3 are going to present their views on when they expect the next recession to be felt. They believe it will likely be pre-staged by a series of financial events that trigger a severe pull-back in the market and a rapid slowdown of the economy.

One way to suspect that the downturn has begun is to study your order board. Are sales tapering off? Are orders being placed less frequently and for smaller amounts? This tells you your customers are feeling the change.

Are you noticing an uptick in job applicants? This can mean other businesses are beginning to shed workers.

Now What?

Rather than get distracted by attempting to pin-point the time of the next recession, it’s wiser to simply agree that there will be one, and it’ll likely occur within a few years. With that agreement in place you and your staff can prepare the ship for heavy weather.

Beginning immediately, you can take the following steps to prepare your business for operating through a recessionary period.

  • Your management team must accept the same economic picture and be driven to succeed in spite of it. This is a great time for imagination. Work with the team to build action plans based on three different scenarios: a. recession, b. fast growth, c. slow growth. Or, look at it another way. Build a plan for what actions to take if sales drop by 20%, another plan covering if sales drop 40%. If you don’t have an executive dashboard, ask your CFO to build one with indicators for business growth or decline.
  • Make sure everyone on the team is mission critical to building value for the business. Get lean, or refocus some jobs so they are contributing more to the value of the business in some way. If you’ve been adding staff the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve taken on some “dead wood”.
  • Keep the team motivated. One good way is to identify and acknowledge key people in the organization and make known the succession plan.
  • By all means, get the right people into the right slots now so they are confident in their roles by the time the downturn is really felt. A recession is no time to be breaking in key managers.
  • Don’t overlook your Accounts Receivable department. This may become your lifeline during tough times. Invest in top-notch people and systems.
  • Get your line of credit set. Reduce debt.
  • If you believe the downturn will be accompanied by higher interest rates, do what you can to lock in prices for your raw materials and leases.
  • Take care of your customers. Go out of your way to be seen as invaluable.

The Secret Code

Did you notice a common thread in this advice? Six of the eight recommendations involve the quality of your employees and how well they work together as a team.

Placing the right people in the right positions, for example, requires skillful hiring aided by in-depth work style and personality assessments. Reduce the risk of hiring or promoting the wrong person. Learn more about our personality assessment services.

Pulling the team together and driving forward with a single purpose requires serious team building, not feel-good exercises. An investment in team building now will strengthen the company’s ability to thrive when other companies falter. Learn more about LCS team-building services.

Developing your managers to have excellent communications skills is vital to an organization’s growth, and absolutely mandatory during trying times, such as recession. Learn more about how LCS empowers key personnel so projects flow more smoothly without frustration.

In closing I recommend a book by two economists who have been extremely beneficial to our business. The economists are Alan and Brian Beaulieu from ITR Economics. Their most recent book is, “Prosperity in the Age of Decline.”  I encourage you to read the book, listen to our Open Line panel discussion audio / slides –  and be prepared for the Next Recession.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Why Breaking the Team Building Code is So Important Today

By Dana Borowka

There is certainly a lot of interest in team building. Try searching for “team building help” on Google and you’re presented with 62.9 million search results! Search for “team building activities” you’ll see another 38.9 million results. The information and solutions available are mind boggling.

Unfortunately, we’ve talked with too many companies that tried team building exercises only to see the results, if any, fade quickly. That’s because team building is much more than going zip lining together. (And we love zip lining!)

In the sports world, championships are frequently won not by teams with the most star players, but by the teams that play like a team – not by a group of individuals. As business managers, we understand this concept. Few of us have the resources to attract only the very best employees in their respective fields. Yet, if zip lining doesn’t pull the team in the same direction, what will?

In this article I’ll provide a list of team-member attributes for your reference; give a great example from the Ritz Carlton on what’s possible when the whole company is focused on the same goal; and explain how we work with clients to build or tune teams for higher levels of performance.

Do Your Teams have the Right Stuff?

It can be difficult to know why a team is performing or not. It helps to take note of all the attributes (positive and negative) that are present on the team.

To assist you we’ve compiled a list of 100 attributes that can be used to assess each member of a team. This isn’t perfect, by any means, because it can be subjective – you be the judge. However, it can reveal problem areas. Warning signs can be silos, poor listening skills, lack of cooperation between departments, defensiveness, lies, sabotaging projects, etc. If your team exhibits more negative attributes than positive ones than that needs to be addressed and resolved quickly.

The Age-Old Challenge: How to Get People to Work Toward a Common Goal

Successful coaches and managers are adept at melding different personalities and skills into a single unit with a common objective.

An unyielding focus on the customer should be a goal shared by everyone in a company. Creating a “closed-loop” culture really helps put everyone on the same page. Here are two articles on the topic of closed loop cultures: How to Create a Closing the Loop Culture and How to Hire Loop Closers.

Learning at the Ritz

For an example of how a large company builds a unifying focus look no further than The Ritz Carlton chain of luxury hotels. Here is the company’s credo, list of service values and the employee promise.

As you review this example, think about the ways you can build a genuine customer focus in your company.

The Credo

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

By PortoBay Hotels & Resorts

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

Service Values – I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

The Employee Promise

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

Breaking the Team Code is Hard

The difficulty of the team challenge is one reason we’ve seen a big uptick in call volume from our clients who have gotten frustrated with the lack of observable results from team-building consultants and team-bonding exercises.

Putting Data where Our Mouth Is

We’ve been receiving these calls because our clients know that we excel at assessing work style personalities. They figure if we’ve done a great job over the years of helping them hire or promote the right individuals, we can have the insight to make a positive impact on team performance, too.

They are correct, or course. Since 1994 we’ve been combining behavioral science with human resource management principles to help our clients outperform their competition through periods of growth and recession.

For boosting team performance we’ve created a fast, effective and affordable service called the Lighthouse TeamView Service™.

Insight that Leads to Better Team Performance

We like to say that TeamView cracks the team building code. The essence of the program is that it helps teams of all types communicate powerfully, clearly and effectively. This is critical because the cause of all team failure is rooted in communication.

How do we crack the code and unlock the full potential of teams?

We start with having each team member complete an in-depth work style and personality assessment test. It’s not your run-of-the-mill test that has only 4-8 personality characteristics. Years of experience has shown us that having 16 primary characteristics are required for accurate insight.

Using Data to See the Dynamics of a Team

After the test results are in, we map the data using our proprietary Thought Flow Chart™. Like any good graph or chart helps visualize a situation, this chart helps to visualize the dynamic nature of the team based on how individuals prefer to receive and give information. Later in this article I go through an example based on an actual assignment.

You don’t have to figure out the Thought Flow chart by yourself. An LCS principal meets with you to review the test results. Together we create the right strategy to achieve ideal team functionality. Now you have a plan for how to go forward — a plan based on deep insight of the personalities of team members.

Involving the Team in Their Own Success

With the strategy and Thought Flow Chart in hand, LCS conducts a workshop for the team members (in person or remote). We reveal the results of the work style and personality tests. Everyone gains an understanding for the strengths of the other team members and how best to communicate with them.

Besides improving trust within the group, the workshop facilitates a process whereby the team and individuals commit to the actions and behaviors necessary for team success.

LCS recommends that management follow up with the team at least twice during the ensuing 60 days to make sure the commitments are being met.

Using TeamView to Build a New Team

While most of our assignments involve helping to tune an existing team for high performance, it’s not unusual for a client to ask us to advise them on building a team from scratch, or adding the right players to a team.

LCS follows the same TeamView process except that we consider what personalities need to be present on the team for it to achieve its objective, so there is direction for hiring and assignments. This could be assembling a project team to work on a big project for a troublesome customer. It could be filling a missing slot on an executive team that is already running smoothly.

TeamView to the Rescue

Here’s a fictitious example loosely based on an actual TeamView Service assignment.

The ABC Company was floundering. Due to recent turnover in the executive staff, the CEO, Hank, felt his team had lost its chemistry; its ability to work together to solve tough problems wasn’t what it used to be.

He called LCS and we immediately implemented our TeamView Service.

The Thought Flow Chart that resulted from our analysis of the work style and personality tests was immensely helpful to Hank and the team.
The data in the chart revealed that the executive group was very well-balanced. That reinforced what Hank believed. He knew the team had the right stuff, it’s just that they weren’t working smoothly together.

You can see an example of the Thought Flow Chart™ in our brochure.

In the workshop LCS exposed the team members to their individual work style and personality assessments. Everyone achieved a better understanding of what made the others “tick”. There was universal appreciation and understanding for the strengths of each personality.

What really made the difference for this executive team at ABC Company, is during the workshop LCS gave each person tools and tips for how best to communicate with each of the other members.

Understanding, respect, trust and clear communications were established in the team. After just 60 days, Hank was pleased to report that the team was performing at high levels once again.

Talk to Lighthouse

You can learn more about TeamView by visiting our Web page, or simply giving us a call at 1.310.453.6556 x403.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.