These days, just checking the price of my stocks and mutual funds is depressing. Each time I think “it can’t go any lower,” and… it does. Just when I think that our government is bound to step in and make a difference they seem to just add fuel to the fire.

So rather than spend my time huddled sobbing in a corner mulling over the fact that my retirement age just moved out by at least 5 years, I like to think about the good that can come from the events happening around and to us. What lessons will we learn? Most importantly, as a business, what is the right course to take today.

First, I believe that change creates opportunity. Second, I believe that significant change only can happen during a crisis (real or perceived).  Suffice to say, I guess that means that the opportunities have never been better!

Simply put, while many businesses will “run for cover” and make short-term decisions, many others – I believe the smart ones – will work to determine what they can do now to be ready for the “next” market. This is not about spending wildly; it is about investing -investing in a way that will make your business more successful in the future.

All businesses have areas in which they could improve. Within IT, I see some pretty inefficient and wild stuff. Companies are working on systems and applications that are so out-of-date that an outsider would think they were looking at a system from the 1980s. Some of these applications should be in the Smithsonian – not production. In many cases companies (and governments) are still using paper and manual processes that are so antiquated that I keep looking around for the “wayback” machine.  I must have gotten transformed through time. 

My favorite analogy here is classic cars. I have a 1959 Corvette that looks so cool that folks always say it must be so fast and drive like a dream. “Are you kidding!” I say, Vintage cars drive like crap – I would never use one for commuting or business! For you car buffs the ‘59 Vette is built on a 40s-era solid axle truck chassis. A sharp corner at 20 mph can be a heart throbbing experience!

Suffice to say that I believe that almost all major companies (except the ones we already know about) will make it through this market. Making it through a bad market is not that hard as expectations are lower for everyone. The real game starts on the rebound. Some companies will have invested to improve their competitiveness and will outgrow their competition; others may have a good looking balance sheet as the market starts to rise but soon struggle as they only sought economic savings in the downturn and now lack the competitiveness and ability to scale.

So, my coaching is simply, use this time to make the changes and investments that you need to be more competitive. And besides, it beats watching CNBC all day.

Mark…

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