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Thank goodness for the recession

Generation M wants to be great at doing stuff that matters

Generation M wants to be great at doing stuff that matters

Before you get upset by my heading, I really do mean this as a personal comment. I know several people, including friends, who have been badly affected by the recession in their businesses. I too have had a couple of tough years, most of which came from starting a business at the beginning of 2008 which is still going but for which I am no longer working on.

Bad timing, perhaps, and the recession did not help. The business strategy was ambitious. We were taking a new product to markets we thought we knew well but the clients were cautious and they did not buy as much as we thought despite the benefits available to them. I have learnt a lot in the last two years of my business life and my home life.

One of the main consequences of the business last year is that I have had to look through my personal finances to adjust my lifestyle according to my funds. And it has been a valuable exercise in highlighting how inefficient my household had been in the last ten years with the way we were spending money.

For example, we had borrowed money to extend our current house in a modest way. It improved the house, for sure, but the house has a limit to what people were prepared to pay for it and the growth in the equity has not improved enough to have made it worthwhile. We are selling our house and moving, hopefully, into a new town house which has energy bills half that of our current house. We will drop our mortgage by £100,000 by moving into the new house and it feels good.

Furthermore, it will save us having to drive our children from our current village house to school in town. The children can now walk to school and we save a lot of money on petrol.

Also, I have downsized my car to a car which does 70 miles per gallon (mpg) and 80 mpg if I drive a little more carefully. What was I doing beforehand in a car which only managed 25 mpg? Also, the tax on it is much lower than the previous car.

I admit that I am now becoming a bit obsessive about what I use day to day and I question even the humblest products and their value. For instance, why the heck do I need a razor which has five blades? How close can a razor get before it starts taking your face off anyway? Two blades are fine and the shaving foam I use now is a supermarket brand which is a third of the price of the branded equivalent and just as good. I don’t seem to be the only one either who is changing their ways either. Caroline Eveleigh at Anatec Software and Systems is doing the same with her lighting.

The main point is that we will soon have a great deal more ‘disposable income’ so that our family can invest in the really valuable things in life such as giving our children the best education we can, investing money for the long term, and actually having some fun.

And this is what we are doing in our business, of which I am now a part, too. We question the value of all of our investments very closely. We are investing in the skills of the team. We are investing in building relationships with our new and existing clients. We are making sure we have some fun as business too.

And as the tough conditions continue for businesses and people alike, it seems like their is change in the atmosphere in how people perceive their environment. Umair Haque wrote a very interesting article where he pointed out a change in society in a group which he calls ‘Generation M‘. Generation M is searching for greater meaning in a world which is “full of big, fat, lazy business” but which is seeking “small, responsive, micro-scale commerce“.

I am part of Generation M. I have moved out of big business and into small business where I can make a difference. I am glad that I am downsizing so I am no longer burdened with an oppressive mortgage. I don’t buy products which purport to make me a better human being because the brand tells me so. I am buying products which do a good job and no more. I am getting my life back and getting some meaning into it so that I can enjoy what I do, spend time with my family and friends and just enjoy a simpler life.

What Shape Is Your Recession?

28/04/2009 1 comment
What's your shape?  

 

 

What's your shape?

Troubled times tend to produce great creativity. Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ was set in the dust bowl of the Mid-West as the people moved west in search of work. The early eighties saw the rise of bands in the UK such as ‘The Specials’ whose tracks included ‘Ghost Town’ which portrayed British inner city decline as old industries collapsed and ended generations of working traditions. The Second World War saw the race to nuclear weapons to end the war sooner. Not all of that creativity was good but hard times pushed society and people to change the way it had worked in the past.

The last week has been a revelation on economics for me. I have learnt about ‘Keynes’ and his theories on economics which have come back into favour. ‘Quantitative Easing’ is nothing new except for the description. (If you want to follow a good blog on economics then I suggest following Peter Cannings’ Blog)

The tough times most of us are experiencing now don’t yet appear to have shown signs of great music or innovation which were not already happening before the recession took hold of the world with the exception of the politicians and soothsayers. 

And the politicians, journalists and soothsayers have excelled themselves in describing the recession for the last few weeks. There seems to be a new sport amongst them for describing the ‘shape of the recession.’ Some say the recession will be ‘W-shaped’. For others, it will be ‘V-Shaped’ or ‘L-shaped.’ The best I heard was that it would be ‘bath-shaped.’ 

Britain’s ‘Chancellor of the Exchequer’ revealed his budget last week which revealed more about the recession than any of the ‘shapes’ being conjured up by the soothsayers and politicians. There not so much a ‘shape’ but more of sound as the nation sighed a very long “Oh dear.” The journalists on the BBC’s Radio 4 ‘Today’ program described the budget as “salami-slicing” which was a new but novel description. 

But whatever the politicians and soothsayers predict, or however they describe the recession, it is not them who have to get us out of the mire we are sliding towards. It is you and me that have to prevent ourselves sliding into the swamp. There is no sign of the recession in the small business in which I work with 24 other talented and professional people apart from a determination to work our way past it. We have had more quotes going out to customers and prospects in the last four months of this year than we managed in the last six months of last year. 

It is now that our imaginations are being pushed to work out new ways in which to help our customers. It is now that we see a scramble for people to gain new skills. Our customers want to try things out without expending huge amounts of cash. They are experimenting with ideas that were fads yesterday but now seem to be eminently sensible. Small businesses don’t have the cash to burn on risky projects, but most of people in them will be trying things out to understand how they can be used for their large clients. 

So, the signs of creativity are beginning to show through in the recession. People are looking for value more than five years ago and this is driving creativity. But, as far as my shape for the recession goes, I don’t have the time to ponder upon it. Although, if I was to choose a shape for the recession it would be an ‘X’. ‘X’ marks the spot. The spot where I stop predicting and start doing. That’s the only we can get out of this mess.