Friday Rant: Don't Get all Optimistic on Me Just Yet

I can't tell you how many interactions I've had with people since getting back to work after taking some time off in August who feel that we've taken a turn for the better with the economy. Vendors, consultants and practitioners must all be sipping the recovery Kool-aid. Or something, potentially more potent than that. But I must tell you, I'm not convinced that we're in a sustainable upswing -- not yet. After all, at least in the US, the stimulus dollars have begun to make their way into the market -- to which we owe most for this feeling of stabilization. But what will happen when these incentives run out and we all need to pay the economic piper for the 24/7 running of the printing presses? Higher corporate and personal taxes and inflation, that's what. Which to me is a recipe for another dip or a very slow ultimate recovery.

As the keepers of cost in our companies, the last thing we should do at this point is to anticipate that things will get better soon. For example, don't think for a minute that you'll be able to rehire the jobs you've had to cut. Plan to do more with less. And don't bank on getting the budget to bring in non-contingency consultants or to make long-term infrastructure investments unless you can justify a 12-month ROI. Rather, I'd take a conservative view and continue to hunker down. Even if a recovery materializes you'll ultimately be the better for it, provided that you have the underlying process, management and technology infrastructure in place to scale up when you really need to.

There's something to be said for developing thick skin in hard times. And granted, while we all like to be optimistic -- and to share this optimism with others in hopes that they'll concur and make us feel better about our optimism, creating a dangerously misguided happy-face cycle if you ask me -- I always put pragmatism and conservatism first if I want to be prepared to stand and hold my ground regardless of what the economy and my company tosses my way. So don't get all optimistic on me just yet. This weekend, why not try spreading some marmite on your toast versus the usual butter and jam to remind yourself of the reality that we're most likely going to continue to face for some-time.

Jason Busch

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