Under the numbers

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Articles - May 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Reader Input survey in each issue is always full of snappy charts and graphs that represent at a glance what our readership is thinking about a particular topic. But when we surveyed readers in late March about how the recession has affected their business or organization, we also asked a few open-ended questions and invited written comments to get a deeper idea of how businesses have coped with the downturn.

The remarks were a telling and sobering reminder that the recession technically may be over, but for 64% of the 718 readers who took the survey, it still feels to them like we are in a recession.

Underneath that percentage were dozens of comments that detailed what has been lost. For some the damage is deep. The list of things that were tossed overboard by the survey respondents seemed endless: raises, 401K matches, holiday parties, IT upgrades, advertising (ouch), health insurance, staff development, travel, bonuses, retreats, capital improvements, charitable giving, publications, paid lunches, janitorial services, golf, Blazer tickets. “My sanity,” added one reader. “Medical benefits package, no annual get-together, major executive wage cuts. There are more things but I am really just pissed off and can’t even list any more.”

While it wasn’t easy to give up these things, the most painful one was losing employees.

“The recession forced my business to give up things that had been important: The business strategy that you treat employees as assets.”

“We let some real good people go.”

“Basically, we cut everything that didn't directly produce a sale.”

We also asked readers to detail in what ways they have had to change how they do business:

“We are a family-owned 84-year-old business who valued our employees and their families. Our relationships with our vendors and customers were our lives. We lived the business. Going forward it will be more of just a business and not a lifestyle. Our state is no longer a great place for family-owned small businesses. I doubt this business will succeed to a fifth generation. It will be sold to a corporation and a lot of jobs will be moved out of the state.”

“It just is not fun anymore.”

There were a few optimistic comments, and one in particular stood out:

“We run a very lean organization with very little ‘fat’ to trim, yet we believe in taking care of our staff. We were unwilling to cut employee wages/benefits and this is the only area in which we really spend significantly in a discretionary fashion. So we gave up profitability to maintain our commitment to treating our staff well.”

I don’t know who wrote this, but if you’re reading this, keep the faith. It’s business leaders like you that help me keep mine.

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Robin Doussard
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