For nearly 30 years, Jim has maintained a newsletter correspondence with his loyal clients.
For all of the youngsters reading this, newsletters are like blog posts--just better.
Read on for some of Jim's "greatest hits" and musings on business and life.

Keeping Morale High When Business is Down (August 2009)

We recognize one simple fact of business life these days: Business stinks. We have to work harder for less; face challenges we never faced before; and even people like me who see their glass as half full are having a hard time keeping it that way.

I’m neither the first nor the last to say this about today’s business environment. But saying it is the easy part - doing something about it is another thing all together. And whether or not you discuss it with your employees, they know it stinks too - and many of them are scared about it.

The one thing we try and do in this newsletter is to keep it real. The most important action managers or owners can take during these economic times is to be real with their employees. They must be expert communicators of the facts and expectations for the company’s future There is no benefit in trying to candy coat the situation, because employees can see what is going on for themselves.

Secondly, it is important for management to be optimistic and think positive. No one wants to work for a doom and gloomer. And even if the business environment is presently slow, there is good reason to believe that better times will return again as they always have. Work on your attitude first and then convince those around you to come onboard.

Thirdly, it is necessary for management to be creative with positive reinforcement. Good work still needs to be recognized even if overall performance is lagging. Employees still need to know that their work and efforts are appreciated. There are perks other than monetary rewards. You can recognize them as employee of the month, mention them in the company newsletter or take them out for lunch. Studies show that the majority of people work because they like the work and the company versus just earning a paycheck. Continue to make your work environment fun and invigorating versus nine-to-five drudgery.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is to develop a dialog with your employees. Get their feedback on how they believe the company can get better. This is a great time to make improvements within the organization. Take advantage of it to change for the better. We recently sat down with our key employees and talked about what they thought we could do to spice up our marketing program. We were surprised by some of their creative ideas. In fact, one of our salespeople, David Ohlberg, came up with the smart idea of a randomly distributed coupon for customers, which we have incorporated into this issue of the newsletter. Thanks, David!

Morale is a very strange phenomenon. Like momentum, it feeds upon itself. Fueled by emotion, it can quickly spread from kindling into a raging fire. Before you know it, the entire company is inflamed - and if it’s on fire with negativity, you’re looking for the hose. Take the necessary steps today to keep your employees focused in the right direction. Sure, business may stink, but your attitude doesn’t have to.