A Time of Challenge and Opportunity

A few months ago, a contributing columnist to BusinessWest suggested retiring the phrase ‘hunkering down.’ He said that, overall, the term doesn’t really mean anything anymore (if it ever did), but that if there is a connotation, it is generally a sense of ducking and dodging.

Webster’s Collegiate states only that ‘hunker’ means to squat or crouch, and that the word is, in fact, generally used with ‘down,’ although that sounds somewhat redundant.

And if people are going to continue to use that phrase with regard to the recession and their efforts to withstand or survive it, then it should be retired. That’s because this region doesn’t need a lot of hunkering, or even hunkering down, right now.

Instead, as business-management experts state in an informal guide to getting to the other side of this recession in this issue, it needs some imaginative thinking and determination to grow, and not merely survive. What the experts say, and they’re right, is that, while this may be a time of challenge — or extreme challenge for those in some sectors — it is also a time of opportunity, if people choose to view it as such and have the daring not to merely hunker down.

Such daring remains a foreign concept to many, including most of those who remember what 1990 and 1982 were like. The phones in their offices stopped ringing — unless they were in the bill-collection business — and didn’t start ringing again for years.

In response, many did some real hunkering, and in the process they probably missed out on some excellent business opportunities, while helping to deepen those recessions in the process.

We know that’s it’s very easy to preach such action, and much harder to do it. The ‘experts’ (yes, that word needs quotation marks around it) pull out some well-worn rhetorical phrases like ‘be active, not reactive,’ and ‘thrive, not simply survive,’ which are overused and can sound as trite as ‘hunkering down.’

But they’re right.

While it goes against some of their most basic of instincts, now is a time when business owners should be thinking imaginatively and perhaps taking some steps they normally take only when those handling both accounts receivable and accounts payable sound much more upbeat.

This might be the time to find new ways to collaborate with other businesses and organizations to create new revenue streams that will yield dividends long after the recession is declared over. Likewise, this could — and should — be the time to make sure your company is providing relevant products and services and that customers are receiving what they demand most — value.

This is also a time, as one expert stated, when business owners and managers should be exploring what would be considered missed opportunities — such as the huge and still-growing Hispanic market and other ethnic populations — to turn such misses into hits.

Meanwhile, this is definitely the time to look at operations, procedures, and personnel to make sure one’s company is being as efficient as it can be. This sounds like a no-brainer, but businesses don’t do enough of this whether the economy is bad or good.

In summation, those ‘I Refuse to Participate in a Recession’ buttons are good, clever, and practical. But the wearers need to back up the words with actions.

If they don’t, those words are hollow and somewhat meaningless — just like ‘hunkering down.’

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