The news is unavoidable.
Every time you turn on the television or the radio, every time you open the newspaper, for weeks the story has been the same: Wall Street is burning, and Congress is struggling with its fire-fighting efforts. As of press time, the House of Representatives was returning for a second time to try to come to a deal, and with every bit of good or bad news, stocks go reeling.
It’s difficult not to get emotionally involved yourself with such sensational news going on. For business owners, questions start arising: Will my customers stop spending money? Will the banks start freezing my credit? Will they stop lending money to my new building project?
The truth is, some of these things will happen. Consumers are as concerned as businesses that this is the beginning of a downward trend that will take years to stabilize. Local banks are going to be prudent and cautious in their lending practices.
Here at the BBJ, we talk to many businesses from all sectors, and the anecdotal evidence for the local economy is mixed. We have heard that several building projects are on hold because they can’t get financing. The simple fact is that banks are relooking at their lending practices. We have also heard that while the news is doom and gloom, many companies are going forward business as usual and are even expanding and hiring.
Our local legislators have been scrambling to catch up as well. I talked on the phone with Rep. Rick Larsen in late September as he was preparing to vote on the rescue package. He was calling local media to apprise us of what was happening. Larsen was in support of the $700 billion infusion of cash into Wall Street, and when asked about his concerns, like many politicians his response was mostly about how this will help small businesses.
“We also need an economic stimulus package that helps Main Street as well as Wall Street,” Larsen said.
This all may feel overwhelming to those of us in small business. What control do we have over the tumult that is happening nationally?
The best thing we can do as a business community is to tighten up our own ships and fall back on those business practices that have always been sound. Hire good people and hold on to them if you can. Be smart about your marketing. Make sure you are treating your customers well so they come back again and again.
And mostly, strengthen those relationships that you trust. Turn to those local business-to-business partners you have worked with with for years. Trust that regardless of what you are hearing in the news, these are people you can rely on.
While the national, headline-making businesses might be getting bought or filing for bankruptcy, the likelihood is that the local businesses you’ve always used and trusted are humming along as usual. Keep doing the things you have always done, and we’ll all weather this storm together.