Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are we really out of the Recession?

In the later half of 2010, the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) announced the recession was over in June of 2009 because the economy’s business activity had stopped declining. The recession may have ended in numbers and on paper, but the pain hasn’t. In the town I live in, Schoen’s clothing store, which had been in business for over 70 years, just closed their doors. My husband has shopped at a men’s clothing store for over twenty years.  That store, Raymond Levine, also just closed their doors after 20 plus years in business. Then there are the well-known companies who have recently filed for bankruptcy, Borders and Giordano’s Pizza. So what is really going on?

Let’s look at the impact of these closings. I don’t know the number of individuals employed at Schoen’s or at Raymond Levine, but I do know those individuals are now unemployed and must find new jobs.  For them, the pain of the recession has not ended.

When Borders announced last month that they were filing for bankruptcy, the retail chain stated they will be closing 200 stores and laying off 6,000 employees. The employees who worked at Borders certainly would not agree that the recession is over.  And Giordano’s Pizza just announced that it has filed for bankruptcy protection as well. The Apostolou family, the owners of Giordano’s Pizza, also own a real estate company that reportedly has not been able to sell or lease properties the past few years, causing the company to default on their loans.   It is evident that although the recession is technically over, the aftershocks are not. Here are some indisputable facts about where we are today:

  • Companies, big and small, are still closing their doors.
  • Unemployment is at 8.9% as of Friday, March 4, 2011. This number is almost as high as it was at the ‘end’ of the recession.
  • 1 in 8 Americans, or 40 million, are enrolled to receive food stamps – the highest on record.
  • Gasoline prices have hit a 28 month high which translates to higher prices in the future for everything; from filling our tanks with gas to putting food on the table and clothes on our backs. 
  • The housing market has not recovered as some cities continue to experience declines in the average home values.

This is most likely not the news you want to hear, especially when we are told we are in economic recovery. So are things getting better? In some ways they are…

  • Banks are lending to small businesses again.
  • Consumer spending continues to rise. Many families are going on vacation during spring break this year and restaurants have reported an increase in business.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is rising, meaning supply is moving in the right direction.
  • Unemployment dropped by one-tenth of a percentage point.

It is hard for us to feel that we have weathered the storm when those that are still unemployed, or recently unemployed (such as employees of the companies mentioned above) continue to feel the recession.

The difficultly is the speed at which recovery is taking place….slowly. We take three steps forward and two steps back.  It might help if we focus on the positive rather than the negative. Yes, there are still some businesses closing their doors, and unemployment is not where we want it to be, but as Giordano’s attorney said, “The pizza business is still healthy and good.” Think of it as turning a huge cruise ship around; we may not feel the turn taking place, but we are turning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Giving Back Part II: I Challenge You to Be Great

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve” – Martin Luther King
Have you noticed there is a cycle of giving and it can be contagious?
  • Giving actions encourage others to give.   We set an example by giving that demonstrates to others through our actions that giving is part of our essence.
  • Being the recipient of a giving action encourages you to give.   Ever notice how embarrassed we sometimes feel when someone gives us something – either a gift or a kind note or someone serves us in some way?  Being the recipient of a gift can prompt us to give to others.  
Seeing others give makes us want to take part, making it contagious. The recipient feels great to be thought of and wants to continue the cycle. Helping improve someone’s life actually improves your own; keeping our life better balanced. So I challenge you to be great through giving. Make giving back a lifestyle to be emulated by others. Today, business is not only about making money, it’s about making a difference.

Here are some myths about giving back that may cross your mind. Do any of these sound familiar….

1)      Giving back means giving money – MYTH. Giving time and talents is often more important then giving money.  Too often, it is easy to just write a check to assuage our guilt. It is often much harder to give of our time and our talents but the rewards are so much greater.

2)      Giving back is difficult work without reward – MYTH Giving or serving can be a fun activity for you, your family or employees. While the reward is not monetary, you may get more then you give.

3)      Giving back is time consuming – MYTH There are many small ways you, your family or your company can give.

So, where does this leave you? How can I make a difference by giving back? Here are some examples both big and small;

  • Make your company a force of good by organizing or participating in a charity event that involves the whole company.  As mentioned in Giving Back http://jeanregan.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html  Tranzact has participated in Light the Night for Leukemia & Lymphoma  and Diabetes Walk for Life.
  • Companies can also support their employees that are fighting for a cause. At Tranzact we have support our employees by promoting what they are doing,  currently we are supporting employee raising money for St. Baldrick’s a charity for children fighting cancer.
  • Tranzact participated in events such as Light the Night, we also support employees who are fighting for a cause.   
  • Visit a local nursing home – one of our employees brings her children to practice piano at a local nursing home and the residents love it. 
  • Organize a trip with family, friends or employees to Feed My Starving Children where adults and children help package food for starving children all over the world.
  • Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister – You can change a life by simply being a friend. 
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – just by reducing what we buy, reusing what we have, and recycling, you alone, your family or company can make a difference.  At Tranzact we recycle and reduce energy use just by reminding employees to turn off computers before they leave.
There are so many ways in which we as individuals or as a whole can give.  It’s seems to be a secret…that you will get more than you give. So I challenge you to be great.