In tough times, successful organizations actively look for ways to strengthen themselves. Four leaders of successful organizations were on a panel March 24th in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The panel included: Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman’s, an Ann Arbor institution and internationally famous deli; Janet Muhleman, President of re:group, a highly successful branding and marketing agency; Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance, a consortium of business leaders working together to accelerate the region’s economic growth; and Roger Palay, Vice President of Instruction at Washtenaw Community College, a fast growing two-year college serving the learning needs of people in and around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. When asked what they were doing differently in this challenging, economy, they said that they were:

  • Recruiting new talent to add to their teams at a time when talent is relatively cheap
  • Developing personal relationships with future customers and business partners
  • Being obsessive about their focus on customers and the customer experience
  • Cultivating new customers
  • Picking up market share while other companies are hunkering down
  • Showing employees that they appreciate them
  • Planning for the future
  • Developing their “digital face” (Web site, social networking sites, etc.)
  • Doing additional maintenance and improvement of their facilities

It seems to me, this is all good advice for any organization struggling in this recession. It would be easy, and probably very tempting, for these four organizations to take a defensive posture and ride out the economic storm using tough times as an excuse. Instead, they are aggressively nurturing new relationships, new talent, new customers, and new opportunities.

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