II am old enough to remember a few economic downturns.
As a child in the mid-seventies, I recall sitting with my parents in our sweltering Chevy Impala, the gas line snaking forever in front of us. “Why are we waiting so long?” I asked. “What’s going on?” My dad made a face. “The government screws the people,” he told me. “Every government. Every people. All through history. You have to factor that in at all times.”
Then, in the early ’80s, recession hit with a vengeance. I was working as a hostess in a comedy club, and the owner had to reduce his staff. When I heard rumors of additional layoffs, I spent hours devising a new seating system that I thought would be more efficient. The next night I approached the owner — an older, highly volatile Israeli man. I explained my concept, hoping it was good enough to ensure extra job security. “This idea stinks,” the owner yelled, and even waved his hand under his nose to show the true extent of its bad smell. He spent the next few minutes loudly critiquing my plan, and it was clear that he was absolutely right. “I’m sorry for coming to you with this,” I said. “No, no,” the owner shook his head. “You were thinking,” he told me, and poked my arm. “Keep it up. All the time. And get back to work.”
I remember the downturn of the early ’90s, and how my boss at the time went all out to submit the winning bid for a grant funding research into homelessness. Her mantra was, “Other firms may do it cheaper, but we are better.” She identified the strengths of our firm, and emphasized them brilliantly, branding us as a higher quality, almost boutique research company. We got the funding.
So here we are today. In many ways, this recession is scarier than the previous ones as it coincides with a revolution in technology. Who we work with and the way we do our jobs is changing at lightning speed.
And then there’s the fear factor. It’s impossible, for me anyway, not to lie awake at night with scary questions swirling through my head. When will things get better? Will they get worse first? How much worse?
Eventually we will see fatter times again, of that there is no doubt. But my gut tells me it’s going to get worse first, and some of us aren’t going to make it though this without a lot more pain.
There were a number of factors that caused this recession, and it will take a number of solutions to end it. But in the meantime, I attempt to remember everything I’ve learned during other downturns. I keep my eye on the government. I think. And I always endeavor to do it better.