Wednesday, July 07, 2010

When the going gets tough, what do you do? Start something.

Someone asked me last week whether I'd have started this consultancy had I known a recession was looming. There's no way to answer that--but I'd like to think I would have done it, anyway.  I'm aligned with what I read recently on 37 Signals' post on being a starter in a recession. David notes:
This might have seemed like exactly the wrong time to start a business, but I believe the opposite is true. The skills and the culture you pick up at formation will stick with you forever. The corporate mind of 37signals became imprinted with frugality and efficiency that still is at the core of who we are today.
But you're more likely working within an organization, right? One that's had budget cutbacks, layoffs, hiring freezes and every kind of cheeseparing.  "New initiatives" becomes a dreaded term, something out of reach. 

That's when you need to start something.  Starting may mean different things within different organizations, but it doesn't cost much to:
  • Think out loud:  Make a little pie-in-the-sky and brainstorm what you'd do with extra funds or one more staffer--or what you'd do with no restrictions. Prioritize that list. You'll want it at the ready when things turn around, and in the meantime, you can start building support for those new ideas.
  • Find out what's not working and stop doing it:  You can start something by stopping something else. What would stopping something help you do?
  • Get takeout: Bring in some outside perspective. Convene a small advisory board to suggest pilot projects. Ask a consultant to give you two hours of thinking. Pose a question to colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter. Hire a freelance writer to finish the pile of tasks on your desk so you can think about something new.
  • Figure out what goes with sliced cheese:  Can't create new content? How about diving into your archives, polishing some gems and putting them out there?  Instead of a major push, craft a pilot project that only lasts a few months. Take your problems and flip them around to find a do-able project that lets you accomplish something new.
  • Train for the next wave:  Maybe you can't launch a major initiative now, but you can be reading, attending lectures and asking around about the topics you'll need to know when you can get started.  Ask for training options for future projects and show you're thinking ahead.
  • Read like a startup.  Real startups live with failure, low budgets, small staffs.  Just like you, baby, just like you. I like Silicon Alley Insider to keep me in startup mode, but you can pick any startup trade blog or just the blog of one startup.  Stay inspired.
If you've started a communications project during the recession, share it with us in the comments--and tell us a bit about how it felt to try.

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1 comment:

AndreaM said...

This post is so timely for me! I just asked for advice from a colleague, posted a request for draft reveiw on Twitter...all in the name of getting something going!