Getting through the double dip

Today I’m going to start with a pretty nasty black cloud, but I also promise some silver linings.  

The cloud first. We are about three years into the deepest recession of our lives. Reported statistics show Cayman has suffered an even more pronounced impact than most other countries.  

Its been rough, but we’ll recover soon, right? Sorry, no. Type the words “double dip” into Google now and you get as many news results in the last month from the USA as you did in the whole prior year. As goes the US economy, so goes the good ship Cayman. It seems that, all at once, things are going to get worse still before they get better. 

Take a moment. How does it feel to read that? What does is do to your energy levels? Even writing it myself, it doesn’t feel great, and it drops my energy. 

Business owners and CEOs have a key role in managing both their own energy and that of their business. It has been a major challenge for most to manage that energy and to hold to the vision for their business over the past few years, so the idea that things are going to get worse still before they get better is a tough one to swallow. 

As a CEO, how then do you do it? How do you get through the “double dip”? What’s more, where are those silver linings Tom promised? 

Patience. First, some background. My colleagues at Shirlaws “called” that this would be a “W” shaped recession (hence the “double dip”, that second downstroke in the “W”) way back in June 2009. I have no smugness or take any satisfaction in noting this, it is simply to give context to the fact that we at Shirlaws have now had two years working with clients to develop and implement plans to address the “W”. Businesses globally that planned for this are now in better shape to both get through the second “dip” and then make the most of the upswing that will follow. 

Did he say upswing? Ah, silver linings! Yes, statistically all things will pass, financial markets history tells us that. The second downstroke of the “W” will be followed by a sustained period of growth, that final upstroke of the “W”.  

But you said silver linings plural, so there is more good news? Yes, absolutely. For some time the economy has meandered along in a “flat” stage, with no clear indication of when that would change. Now, as soon as we clearly drop down into the “double dip”, history shows that this is a marker that will not be followed by another “flat” economy, but by a period of growth. Businesses can therefore now start to plan for that. 

I’m not done with the good news either. Sure, some businesses took a methodical approach to planning for the “W” some time ago, but if you didn’t, you can still reap the benefits when the upswing comes by taking the right actions through the double dip. How do they do that? I could give numerous pieces of advice for how to invest through the “double dip”, but for brevity I will stick with one thought for CEOs.  

When the “double dip” ends and we enter a sustained “upswing”, what will you be spending your time on? Will you be able to focus on driving revenue, profit and equity into your business as the economy booms? Or, instead, will you still be working to remove the inefficiencies from your business that developed through having to retrench and react through this prolonged and painful recession? 

To update what I wrote on this in January this year: “Now is the time to focus thoughts, efforts, resources on getting your business ready to capitalise on longer term recovery by ‘fixing what is broken’ and entering the upswing efficient, effective, targeted to your customers needs, and raring to go! You need your leadership ready when the recovery comes to focus on bringing in new business, not focussing on stripping costs out from inefficiencies and administrative issues. You need your people full of belief in your purpose and having recaptured the energy that the last few years have sucked away.” 

There are silver linings in the cloud, grasp the opportunities. Reinvent, or Die.