Worried about the Economy?
With the global economy being attacked from all sides, along with the news on Monday that Japan, (the second largest economic power in the world next to the U.S) is in a recession, there is a great fear of what the future holds for all of us.

Today we are faced with businesses closing down, downsizing their employee ranks, or curtailing some of their business activities. Companies like Circuit City, Starbucks, Home Depot, Linens-n-Things and Foot Locker are reducing their work force from anywhere from 17-25% and closing stores to fight back against a recessive trend that seems to be inevitable. Regarding Foot Locker:

With income down 78 percent in 2007, the shoe retailer is running for the hills. It’s putting 140 more of its 3,785 stores on the chopping block in addition to the 274 it closed last year.”— Money.aol.com

Why do we see so many businesses facing these hard economic times? The economic pundits say it’s a combination of consumer weariness about the economy, and loss of real jobs. While all of this can be statistically documented, I would say that there are possibly other reasons.

Let’s take the case of Circuit City. They are the second-largest consumer electronic retailer and have filed for bankruptcy, begging for the financial protection needed to survive. Does a company like Circuit City just collapse because of a poor economy alone or are there other issues that have brought this about? In Sunday, November 16, L.A Times business letters section, Dan Rendant from Arcadia writes:

It is certainly no surprise that Circuit City has filed for bankruptcy. A couple of years ago Circuit City management decided to get rid of the experienced store employees in order to bring the payroll down to near minimum wage levels.

Practically overnight the atmosphere in the stores changed when the new employees couldn’t get off their cell phones long enough to help the customers. That is when I took all my personal and corporate business to other chains.”

I chuckled to myself when I read this, because I had just mentioned the same thing to someone a few days ago. I realized that somewhere along the line, our business model for this country moved from a focus of having customers to a focus on wooing consumers. We have become a country of consumers and businesses have reacted to this trend. It seems that product consumption has outgrown product production. Actual manufacturing in America has receded to the level we were at in 1947, post World War II.

Many companies have jumped on the consumer bandwagon, targeting the consumer while disconnecting from the customer. The idea of customer has a spirit to it; a connected link to an exchange. In contrast, the image I get of the consumer is similar to the one I had as a child while feeding the pigs on my Grandma Maggie’s farm in Georgia. They would eat what ever I threw in the pen. There was very little discrimination on what it was they were being fed and how much of it was there. We have become pigs in many ways, business has jumped on the opportunity to make a quick buck, without much effort on their part. On Progress-index.com the editor wrote:

According to recent news reports, Circuit City didn’t take the threat of Best Buy seriously enough, focusing on making a profit in the short term rather than building value for customers in the long term.”

From Worry to Hope
This downturn in the economy and the election of Obama has the spirit of business associated with it. All areas of America, including government, businesses, households and individuals are being called upon to show a profit. We are being commanded to remove the shackles of economic slavery and to replace those shackles with Freedom. It’s time to move away from the “free money” and put luvv back into our money and the products we produce. In a conversation I had with Henry Conyers, my spiritual advisor, he said:

We are running for nation to nation looking for an honest dollar. It’s time to let go of the dream and embrace the Vision. The cap has come off the world and the conscience has been unleashed.”

I have seen people from the “Blue States” and the “Red States” all acknowledge that no matter what their political affiliations or beliefs are, they can’t deny the hope they feel from the Obama election. Hope is very high right now, despite CNN’s regular reports on how dim our fiscal future looks. I sense that we have embraced Obama’s key message when on the night that he won the election, he said:

The Road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term. But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

What Can You Do?
This is a time of great opportunity for learning and growth. I am hearing more about retrenchment of adult learning in companies, cutting back on fun opportunities for employees and cutting sales staff. These decisions usually coming from the top of the corporation and don’t involve the people in the middle or the bottom. This is how the $700 Billion bailout was decided too. We see how well that is working. Go Green Learning offers a “Happy Hour program” and I can’t think of any better time than now for people to get a little happier in an aligned way.

Step I:
It’s time to laugh more, play more and learn more. While cutting back on what seems to be fringe benefits, you have to recognize that right now, we are all living on the fringe, and cutting these things, might lead to a less productive work force and the inability to build a comeback.

Step II:
Change from the mind to the heart. Michele Obama in an interview said: I think to the extent that people think that I’m good, It’s from the fact that I really try to speak from my heart”.

Take a look at what changes need to be made in how you do business. Involve employees in real discussions on how to bring the company back into production. You never know what might come from this process.

Step III:
Become a great listener. Listen to conscience, which in turn will assist you to listen to others, your customers, your employees, your children and mate.
Check out our communication workshops.

Step IV:
Strengthen your compassion level. Becoming a better listener will allow you to develop a greater level of compassion for yourself, first and foremost, and for others. Don’t feel sorry for people or try to walk a mile in their shoes. Just bring a greater level of luvv and heart to the office or boardroom.

Step V:
Develop vision teams. These may include people who don’t even like each other or get a long. I will never forget when I was the director of Student Activities at Cal State University, Northridge and I hired Jeannie Rosenberger on the staff. I hired her for two simple reasons, 1) she was very structured and organized and 2) she was a fighter. I knew she would fight me when she didn’t agree and that is what I needed. President-elect Obama is taking the same approach in filling his cabinet positions. The popular Lincoln-esque term is “Team of Rivals.” This vision team should be comprised of people from the custodial staff to the president – anyone who has demonstrated that they have vision and have acted upon it in some way.

Step VI:
Finally, stay true to you. Do it your way with alignment and focus.

Hope is the bedrock of this nation-the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

—Obama in Des Monies after winning the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Obama has been called by the conscience to do the work associated with the word. Continue to acknowledge, embrace and act on your desire when possible – even if your desire seems to be out of step with the times. Never recoil or give up. Hope is a magical aspect of life.