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Ten things to be thankful for this year

By   /   Monday, November 30th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Ten things to be thankful for this year

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Face facts. This has been a horrible year to have to navigate a business through the tri-county economy.

Between the meltdown in commercial real estate, California budget woes, softness in tourism, the foreclosure mess and the ongoing travails of community banking, this has been one for the books.

But hey, kvetching only makes things worse. So, in honor of Thanksgiving and the Business Times’ upcoming 10th anniversary, here are 10 things to be thankful for this holiday season.

• Your employees. They’re the ones who come to work every day and put up with our endless complaints about how difficult things are. They’re the ones who see their friends and colleagues at other companies getting laid off and thank their stars they have a job. They may not kiss your ring every payday, but they do appreciate the opportunities that you’ve given them. And, believe it or not, they really do make you look good.

• Your customers. They’ve hung in there this far with you. That means one thing you can probably take to the bank: As long as they’re able to stay in business, they are not likely to go anywhere else. As times get better and they get stronger, the relationship can only grow. The last 12 months have been a real test of your customer relationships; if you can survive this you are in really good shape.

• Your vendors. Maybe you’ve stretched the terms to 30 days and beyond and asked for some special discounts. Maybe you’ve even gotten a call from the controller seeking payment. But they still get the job done for you, whether it’s professional services, logistics or outsourced manufacturing. We’re all dependent on each other and learning how much so we are every day.

• Your support system. Everybody has trusted mentors or advisors who help serve as sounding boards or steam vents or simply a shoulder to cry on. I got a phone call a few days ago from our lawyer, Phil Drescher, just wondering how I was coping with the economy. It was a much-appreciated call. So, if you are a mentor or big brother to a business owner, don’t be afraid to reach out.

• Your friends. The folks who knew you in high school or college know you as a different person from the one who sits behind the big desk. They know what you’re like when you put on your sweats and root for the home team. That’s a good thing — stay in touch with them and you’ll stay connected to your roots.

• Your safety valves. Whether it is fly fishing or golf or tennis or going to the gym these are needed escapes. They’re how you get out of the day-to-day grind of paying bills and think about the innovations that will power your company as things turn around.

• Your ability to count to 10. Many times over the past year, frustrations have run high. But blowing your stack and alienating people is rarely an effective strategy. Most of the time you want to write that nasty letter or e-mail in order to blow off steam — then file it away for a day when you can look at it with more perspective.

• Your sense of humor. Facing adversity with a little bit of levity can take the pressure off and bring your team around to deal with tough times. Those one-liners or quick quips can take the sting out of bad times. Remember Ronald Reagan’s one-liner to Nancy after he was shot and nearly killed: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

• Your family. They are at the heart and soul of who you are. They’ll be with you in thick and thin, but you have to accept them for who they are — not who you want them to be.

• Your health. If you have survived the past year with your health, especially mental health, reasonably intact, you have a lot to be thankful for. I have a very wealthy friend in the Washington, D.C., area who’s been suffering from brain cancer. He’s about my age. I admire his money and his success but now I appreciate even more the prospect of living for another 25 or 30 years.

I agree with Warren Buffet that the future for America is actually very bright — in large part because we are great at adapting to change and because we are now addressing some very fundamental problems that took us off track. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

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