The Art of War In a Recession

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 7, 2011

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Warren Buffet is politer than I. “It’s only when the tide goes out”, says he, “that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

The day to day reality is starker. In boom times, a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’; in a recession the tide goes out, and some boats get left high, dry, and out of the game. We are all sailing in to this storm, we will not all be sailing out.

A recession is like going to war. In order to succeed, you reallocate your resources, you cut the fat, and you fight for every inch of territory. You sacrifice indulgence; you buck up your allies when they are weakened; you make sure you have the best strategy; you all understand together that you must win.

But you do not compromise your values, not ever. Recessions are times when many people argue that soft headed; ‘high minded’ ideals can be compromised. That a short term victory tomorrow – to win a battle – is worth cutting corners on the foundations on which your company and your life has been built.

In the brutal Canadian construction recession of the early nineties, EllisDon very nearly went bankrupt. Since then, we didn’t create new values, we merely rediscovered and reinforced the values on which the company was built (and which we had, temporarily, forgot). We have friends and allies now – clients, consultants, subcontractors, each other – who came back for that reason alone, and who will stay with us as long as we are good to our word, and true to our values.

I am sending this message out into the ‘blogosphere’ (whatever that is) so that anyone who reads this knows that - not only are the people at EllisDon not going to compromise - we are going to rely on our core values as our key strategic weapon in this war.

We have no intention of losing. See you on the other side.