Cut Back vs. Charge Ahead in Today’s Economy: You’d Be Surprised at Who Comes Out Ahead

Cut Back vs. Charge Ahead in Today’s Economy: You’d Be Surprised at Who Comes Out Ahead

Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful…What is likely is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

Warren E. Buffett (discussing when to buy)

I was at the HR Technology conference last week in Chicago, and I want to share with you a few thoughts about the tenor and mood of the vendors and attendees at that show.  If you off-the-cuff think everyone was walking around with a gun to their heads, you’d be wrong, full stop.

First and foremost, yes, people were incredibly willing to talk about the economy and the state of the nation in both financial and political terms.  That’s unavoidable.  We’re well into reality-land these days, and the question of whether or not things are going to get tighter isn’t a question anymore.  People were voicing their concerns to me in the plain light of day, which I found to be refreshing.  People weren’t holding their cards close to their vests; they were openly discussing how to weather the storm and trying to get their heads around how long it might last.  I think people realize that everyone is sailing in the same uncertain waters.

Some folks told me that they’re cancelling or deferring their remaining 2008 HRIT/ERP projects and putting 2009 in a holding pattern to see how things shake out.  I think it’s safe to say a lot of people are fearful, and when fear happens, the standard corporate organizational response is to flow into pure cost conservatism and horde.  I know firsthand, because I’ve seen it in spades in my former life.

But what impressed me the most is how many said that this is the time that they’re moving forward, in some cases very aggressively.  More people than not simply smiled and said that yes, times are rough and we have to hunker down, but we are in a fantastic place of leverage.  We can invest at bargain prices, squeeze software vendors for incredible deals, and at the end of this financial weirdness, come out of it ahead.  Ahead as a company, of course, but more importantly ahead of our competition, which is letting their fear compromise their strategic vision outright.

And let me tell you, this wasn’t one or two people with this outlook.  More people than I ever expected said they are investing now so they can reap the benefits on the back end of this financial storm rather than waiting it out and hoping necessary projects begin again sometime down the line.

Sometime down the line.

While some companies will wait for “sometime” to become “the right time,” other companies will carry forward and implement their next-generation of HRIT/ERP software applications.  And these folks not only will get a deal of their lifetimes, but they’ll also have strategic momentum when things open back up.  Their competitors will be just coming up for air, and meanwhile the more shewd organizations will be in full stride.

What are your thoughts?  Which way are you leaning as you look to close out 2008 and move into 2009?  Would love your thoughts in the comments or via email directly.

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