If Rip Van Winkle Awoke Today—What to do in 2010?

If Rip Van Winkle Awoke Today—What to do in 2010?

During the last few months we have looked back at a number of business processes, tools and institutions to comment on how they have changed during the past 20 years.

The main observation that I would take away from our Rip Van Winkle series is that successful businesses (and here I mean primarily smaller and mid-sized firms) have generally become more effective and competitive over time. Businesses and their executive teams are generally smarter, more disciplined, leaner and more agile than their counterparts of 20 years ago.

With this as a competitive backdrop, we are now hearing that future economic growth (GDP) for 2010 (and beyond) is forecast by many economists to be lower than the growth we have become accustomed to since 1990.

In my view, two economic forces are now about to collide. How will it impact you?

  • The theory of “all boats benefit from a rising tide” is out the window. Do not get caught waiting for the tide to come in.
  • As slower growth and competitive markets meet, there will be a continuing shake-out as weaker companies close or fall by the wayside as the result of more-aggressive companies clawing for increased market share. A possible sidelight of this collision may be continuing higher levels of unemployment driven by a lack of new hiring by lean companies and the closure of weaker competitors. This could present you with the golden opportunity to hire that excellent talent from your struggling competitors you have always wanted. Draw up your shopping list now.
  • Do you think the last 18 months have been tough? Well, 2010 may be just a continuation. I advise you to continue to do (and accelerate) whatever you have been doing to succeed by:
    • Grabbing new market share by investing in sales and marketing;
    • Touching new customers; and
    • Keeping a lid on expenses (in fact, try to find another 2%+ of overhead cost that you can reduce this year).

And what if the economists are wrong? I believe our three-part 2010 prescription (above) is valid in any situation.

With this, we bid goodbye to Rip Van Winkle and thank him for his insight. I personally hope to see him again in 20 years.

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