It might seem a strange notion that the words “passion” and “recession” might sit together easily in the same sentence. Recessions are seen as wholly negative things by most people. Recessions are a time of decline, of cost cutting, lack of sales, job losses – a time of zero or negative growth. We need to get out of recession as soon as possible, avoid them etc.
Clearly recessions fit into the overall economic cycle and Gordon Brown’s (ex Prime Minister of the UK) rather embarrassing statement that the days of boom and bust were finally over, was followed by… another recession.
Recessions are painful for business, for families, for individuals and communities. Recessions create hardship, worry and often send many a business into liquidation.
And yet, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that recessions are also a call to re-ignite lost passion in a business. A recession in our industry or country can often seem to mirror our own “inner recession” where we have, to use a recently much-used word, “lost our mojo”. Companies which survive and even thrive in recessions, are companies in which their leaders, and ideally staff are passionate.
“Passion” (as in “A Passion for Excellence”) is a much misused word in business and industry, as well as in the public sector. The dictionary defines it as:
“1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
b. Strong sexual desire; lust.”
A third definition is this (from the same dictionary):
3. Boundless enthusiasm
In a recession, businesses which survive and even thrive do not get lost in fire-fighting cleverness and reactionary panic. They stay true to their purpose, often getting back to the basics of why they are doing what they are doing. In recessions, if the passion has been focused on making money and the focus has drifted away from the wish to deliver a specific product or service, the passion well ebb away, disappear and even change into panic. Money-making can only sustain itself (to an extent) in boom times, partly because there is plenty of it about, because earning is often easier, complacency thrives, and because money is flowing very freely. In a recession, where things are much tighter, money no longer drive things as easily – things slow down, even seize up. Customers tend to desert greediness very quickly, loyalty won through clever money tricks tends to evaporate quickly.
Why did we set up this hotel – to make money out of people, or to provide hospitality in an enthusiastic way? Why do we renovate Volkswagen camper vans – because we can earn a mint, or because we love those gorgeous little homes on wheels and want others to share our enthusiasm? Why did we set up this particular cafe in this way – to reel in the dollars, or because we had a unique for a cafe where people came to meet and chat as well as enjoy art on the walls, whilst enjoying the finest local baking we do in the area?
Ironically, it is often in boom times, where the challenges to survive are a bit less, that we can fall asleep to our passion for what we do. A team away day for leaders and staff can be a vital way to remind ourselves of why we are doing this business in the first place. What are we REALLY about here?
With less resources we start to think more smartly and get back to basics. It is often at the fundamental level that we rediscover our passion and purpose.
Listen: Money is not the goal of a business, but the pleasant side effect of making passion our goal.
During a recession we can start to identify the things that clutter our passion, many of which were develop to enable our complacency and to make the money-making part easier for us (and often not the customer). We can cut back in ways that actually help us get back to our essence…
– unnecessary procedures and admin
– unnecessary stock, materials
– a simpler product range
– ideas and practices which allowed us to grow bigger but led to compromise in our original vision
– an over-elaborate management team and structure
– waste of energy and resources
– things that take too long to achieve and deliver
– poor visibility and control of our resources – costs, time, materials and people
But there are two ways of doing this. One is to focus all the smarter working and cost reduction on improving the money situation. The other way is to do this but also focus on ensuring that we feel more passionate about our business in the process, that customers also are infected by the enthusiasm with which we run our business.
In my home town of Brighton there are several cafes and restaurants doing very well in the current recession, as well as quite a few shops. In all cases the leaders, owners and staff, are innovative their businesses, experimenting, getting back to basics, listening with interest to their customers (seeing them as a vital source of inspiration), they are upbeat and full of enthusiasm. They are also working more smartly and efficiently, but only where this does not depress them or degrade their “mojo”.
It works, So we can focus our efforts on two things which work together:
– working more smartly
– working more essentially and wholeheartedly.
The boom has made many people tired and lazy at a heart level and their businesses became complacent. Recessions have become an opportunity for passion. Are you up to the challenge?