Leaders around the world have declared their national economies in recession. Each announcement triggers consumers to cut back, employers to downsize, and companies large and small to consider how they will manage their operations through the next 12 to 24 months.

However, history has consistently shown us that from trying times comes great progress. While governments, companies and individuals are still waiting to “touch bottom,” there is great opportunity in mustering the positive attitude and innovative spirit that were hallmarks of the recent boom — tempered with the calm, realism and transparency that we now know were not — to write the next chapter, together.

Our company, Imagination, has steered communication activity for world-class brands for more than 30 years. This experience positions us well for having good insight on how companies can best cope with the economically uncertain times that we all find ourselves in.

Here is our list of 10 things you need to know to ride out the recession. It is a combination of common sense, variations on familiar experiences and inventiveness. Its simplicity belies its strength, and we believe it provides not only a tool for weathering the present storm but, more importantly, a tool for shaping the future.

  1. Affirm who and what you are. Great companies are all founded on guiding principles and values. In these times, you must know exactly what you stand for, how you deliver value, and how your principles and standards serve as a guide for making every decision about growing or stabilizing your enterprise. Knowing what you are will help you know where you are going.

  2. Focus. Make cuts but be strategic. Consider how various cuts are preparing you for the inevitable opportunities coming as the economy rebounds. Focus your attention on the new behaviors of your customers and your employees, learning how you will be relevant to them in the future while still delivering the value your company stands for.

  3. Collaborate. Turn outward to reaffirm and evolve your strongest relationships. Collaborate with your existing colleagues and clients in order that both become partners, which mitigates risk and maximizes benefit for everyone.

  4. Integrate. Integrate your teams to reinvigorate them and to create more dynamic relationships. Even consider hiring talent downsized from other enterprises. Make sure you have the understanding and talent with which to create outstanding work.

  5. Innovate. Paradoxically, constraints are a key element of innovation. Tighter budgets, limited spending and changing consumer habits can compel us to create new ways of standing out and delivering value. Get in the habit of creating new products, services and programs that are so compelling that they will find funding because their potential upside is too great to miss out on. Be the change that spurs a more rapid turnaround.

  6. Target. Regardless of how tough times are, there will always be value in events. Identify your clients' most pressing event needs and provide ideas of how to resolve their issues. For example, financial institutions will need to reinvigorate their employees and depositors, so how should these institutions engage with their partners during constant change? Real estate companies remain compelled to move properties — how can you help them?

  7. Adapt. Today, the brisk pace of consumer and technological change demands that companies listen and adapt more effectively than ever. This will be as much through technological platforms as it will be through face-to-face interaction. Are you prepared for this shift?

  8. Communicate. Companies that will flourish will be those that meaningfully, honestly and continuously communicate with their employees and clients. Above all, helping people understand where they stand relative to their company and its work will go the furthest in forging alliances and allegiances that will propel the enterprise as the economy turns around.

  9. Inspire. Boom or bust, people want to be inspired — by values, by leadership, by information, by imagination, by creativity, by relationships and by progress. The greatest leaders and their companies have all become so thanks to their ability to inspire. Now more than ever, ours is the opportunity — perhaps even the responsibility — to inspire and create a new era.

  10. Be brave. Be bold.


Richard Foulkes is a board director at Imagination, one of the world's leading independent, media-neutral communications agencies. Founded in 1978, the London-based firm has grown from a single office to a globally integrated company appearing on the Special Events “50 Top Event Companies” list. Key clients include Ford, Jaguar and Samsung. Imagination can be reached at www.imagination.com; the U.S. contact is Gabrielle Chamberlain, gabrielle.chamberlain@imagination.com.

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