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1 Perception Is Reality
Late in 2008 the leaders of the US auto industry begged for government assistance. It was reported that some of them flew to Washington for meetings in their private jets. Whether this was environmentally or economically justified is irrelevant. Think how it was perceived by thousands of auto workers facing retrenchment and a very bleak economic future.

2 You Must Be Seen To Lead
You want employees to become more cost conscious, more profit focussed, more customer service oriented and more business savvy. You must be prepared to sacrifice a personally significant financial or material privilege as an example to your employees.

3 "Level" With Your Staff
Call a meeting and tell your people how you plan to deal with the effects of the recession. If you don't, your staff will make inaccurate and misinformed decisions. It's better to tell them what's happening rather than create damaging rumour and speculation based on your silence. They expect to be told the truth.

4 Collaboration Not Confrontation
Recession is the ideal time for collaboration between the business owner or manager and staff. It is a very bad time for threats and intimidation. You need the full co-operation of your staff. You needs their ideas and comments. They need to feel free to make suggestions and to participate fully in helping your business to survive and improve. You won't gain co-operation and participation by threatening staff with "the sack".

5 Key People Are More Important Than Ever
Retaining your key people is very important in a recession. Ensure that they're "onside". They are the core of your business. And because they're good at their jobs, they're the ones most likely to be sought by your competitors. Should your business fall into serious decline, they'll be the ones who'll find it easiest to leave and find another job.

6 Establish Staff Performance Management Groups
Assuming you have clear performance standards for the various areas of your small-medium business, establish a staff committee in each area. The staff committee can monitor performance, costs, savings and operational methods. And when they're successful you can reward them with some savings.

7 Increase Rewards and Incentives
Yes: increase not decrease. This isn't the heresy it seems to be. Incentive and reward systems are usually used to reward superior performance. In a recession you want even more superior performance. And you want to retain your superior performers. So offer superior rewards.

8 Staff Know "Where The Pennies Are Hidden"
All businesses have "fat": areas of operation that cost more than they really should. Staff know where and what they are. Ensure that you encourage your people to identify these potential savings and suggest action to gain them. Reward them when the savings become a reality.

9 Reward Thrift
When employees suggest an effective way to reduce costs make sure they receive a percentage of the actual money saved. Make a fuss about cost savings. Have a chart showing progressive savings and the cash benefit to employees. This will encourage participation and prove the integrity of your position.

10 Intensify Training
Train intensively in tough times .... and less so in good times. In good times you want employees to be working hard, setting new performance records and serving customers: taking advantage of the good times. Prepare for the good times with intense internal training in tough times. You won't get a better opportunity.

Some of what I've suggested may seem almost heretical. But without total staff co-operation and participation you may not have a business in 2012. Maybe now is the time for heresy.