Managing a New Year in Uncertain Times

by marilyn on January 5, 2009

Most of us are a little edgy about what 2009 has in store. While we have great hopes for our new President, and had a good first trading day on the market on Friday, many of us are nervous about our jobs, our businesses and our futures. David Lucier, CPA of Lucier CPA, Inc in Johnston, RI,  (Thanks, David!) has some great ideas that I’ve modified to apply to personal as well as business management:

1. Take control of cash. This is a no brainer. “Cash is king!” Monitor expenses, collect all accounts receivable in your business and pay your necessary obligations first.

2. Know your costs. In your business, know what each product or service costs. Don’t sell products or services that lose money. Focus on your more profitable and stable areas. Personally, make a budget. “Budget” was a dirty word for many for a long time but having a budget is coming back into fashion. Suze Orman, who does a fun segment on her show called “Can I Afford It?,”  has a good budget sheet on her website.

3. Produce accurate financial information. Inaccurate financial information has caused incredible damage to our economy. Experienced bankers will tell you they never would have gotten away with approving the subprime loans that have caused so much havoc. Let’s go back to basics– personally as well. If you withdraw from the ATM, record it! Create a check register for your credit card charges so you know how much you owe at the end of the month. Draw a line when you are about to exceed what you can afford. My young adult daughters tell me some of the best advice I ever gave them was not to get credit cards. They only use their debit cards and, unlike most of their friends, never spend more than they can afford because their financial information is accurate and visible on a day-to-day basis.

4. Listen — to employees, customers, potential customers and people in your industry. At home, listen to your family, friends and neighbors. Use the information to plan, adjust when needed and thrive. A few phone calls to  colleagues on last week helped affirm some trends I am seeing so I can make some needed adjustments in my own business.

5. Planning, goal setting and focus. For your business, you might want to have 3 year, 1 year, quarterly and weekly goals but we like to emphasize one year as it is a natural measure we all relate to. (Take at look at our Best Year Yet! program. One can accomplish at lot and even make dramatic changes if needed in a year.  This year, focus on net returns
will be important in our personal as well as business budgets. Savings accounts may actually be back in style!

6. Right Size. Eliminate all waste. Make sure you have the right people working for your company and that you set the right priorities. Look to the lessons learned from previous years as you
make adjustments. Do the same personally. Do you really need all those cable channels? Are you using all the cell phone minutes you are paying for?

7. Raise New Cash. . .  but only if you are certain you can make a profit. Be creative. Exchange services and find other ways to do what you need to if cash is not available. Personally, learn to have fun doing things that are free or low cost. Sometimes they are even more enjoyable.

8. Positive Attitude and Marketing. Being enthusiastic, determined and committed is critical.  A positive attitude is contagious. Focus on opportunities not problems. If you need to, turn off the news, Try to avoid getting swept up in others’ anxiety.  Focus on your strengths. Be creative.

9. New Business. Don’t stop trying. Instead of reducing sales and marketing efforts, use your energy to position yourself for future growth. If you are in the job market, don’t give up. During a recession a number of years ago in which engineers were particularly hard hit, a client who had gotten recently married to a woman with 3 children and had bought a new house was feeling desperate when laid off from his job of 15 years. I was able to help him see that job hunting is a “numbers game” so he send out 400 resumes. . . no kidding. He only got one interview but he got the job which is all that counts!

These are all great ideas but its hard to make changes in isolation. Don’t eliminate coaching from your budget. Coaching  helps create focus, alignment and accountability to make needed changes quickly and effectively and, above all it helps allay anxiety knowing there are specific concrete actions to take.  Often only a few coaching sessions can make a huge difference. Check out the Best Year Yet! system. One participant in our 2008 workshop wrote:

The best year yet is one of the most powerful personal management tools I have ever used. I was delighted that I could identify and define my game plan for the next year in only four hours!!  . . . I have been a person who has a new idea every week and my priorities were always getting reshuffled.  However, once I went through setting my objectives via the best year yet process, I realized the work I had just done was so meaningful I would not be changing my objectives during the year. And I didn’t!!

I attended your program in January 2008 and I have completed almost every single objective that I set for myself in 2008. I am looking forward to revisiting the process and setting new, meaningful, and reachable goals for  myself in 2009!! And (my note: now I get to puff just a little) , Marilyn, you are one heck of a coach!” –Jane Nugent, MBA, M.Ed, Wellesley, MA

The online page for Best Year Yet! is currently being updated but don’t hesitate to contact me for more info: And. . . Happy New Year! -Marilyn

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