Perseverance in 2010

It’s still early in the year, so it’s only fair for CEOs, company presidents and executive leaders to ask: what things do we know for sure about 2010, and what’s really just pure speculation?

That’s a tough subject to tackle, believe me. I’ve struggled with its implications for several weeks, so I’m going to take a gamble and tell you what I think we do and don’t know.

What we don’t know

Regardless of what the experts say, after the beating the economy took in 2009, we really don’t have a clue about what this year will bring. Will credit really benefit from the stimulus package? And if so, where and when?
How many more jobs will the stimulus package create, and what kinds of jobs? Will interest rates start creeping up, or will inflation remain largely unabated?
Will the 2010 Congressional elections mean new faces in the legislature and, if so, will the newcomers break the Democratic majority? How will that influence our president’s domestic agenda and our foreign relations?
Health care reform has generated more unmitigated controversy than any other topic in recent history, especially about the effect it will have on American businesses.
The elimination of the death tax relief will affect millions of Americans, but at what cost? Social Security issues for immigrants are of major concern, particularly to baby boomers, but what tax burdens will our children and grandchildren face as a result?
Unemployment isn’t expected to wane very much. So what about unemployment benefits as they begin to expire, after their second extension? What happens to the millions of Americans who will still be without jobs, as they continue to drop out of our consumptive-based economy?
Equally important, what about the war in Afghanistan and the instability in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East, which we, as business owners and executives, can do nothing about?
This is perhaps one of the most volatile times in our country’s history. It’s enough to give you a migraine if you’re the worrying type.

What we do know

Most fundamentally, we know we have our families and our traditional value and belief systems that guide us in our business and personal lives. They don’t change, regardless of who’s in the White House, what our economy is like or whether the terrorists have struck again.
We know we have a commitment to a way of doing business, whether we work for General Electric or the neighborhood pizza shop.
We know that as business leaders, in times that are always uncertain, these tenets will sustain us:
  1. We can do things that can maintain or destroy our personal health and we have full control over many of them.
  2. We have control over our personal psychological perspective. We can wake up with a smile or a frown and live it throughout the day. Our perspective affects everyone with whom we come in contact.
  3. We can influence the growth and development of our children.
  4. Our vote still counts, at every level of government.
  5. Our employees come first. Years ago, I would preach “customers first, employees second.” I don’t believe that anymore. Our employees connect with our customers, and if we treat our employees well, our customers will be similarly treated.
  6. We can all control our down time. It’s uplifting and refreshing, and it’s important we use it to our advantage.
My wife reviewed this column and said, “You’re getting a bit soft in your old age.” She’s probably right. With a smile on my face, I said, “I don’t care.”
The fact of the matter is that we can become tormented by what we hear on TV or read in the newspaper, or by the bad news we get in our businesses regarding things like missing orders or lost customers.
But the good news is that as individuals, especially as senior executives with tremendous responsibilities over others, we do have control over those things that really count. Think about your own personal and business life. Can you add to this list?
Until next month, I hope that as we start the journey into 2010, you can concentrate on those things that you can truly control.

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