In 2008, the economy seemed to be crashing everyday.
I had started working in the summer of 2007 after college. Things were good for maybe a year. Then they seemed bad. Then the company I worked for laid off in the Spring of 2009.
Thankfully I wasn’t let go, but in 2012, I chose to leave the company to give Ghost Blog Writers a full-time shot.
The company I was working for has been doing well since as far as I can tell. That’s no surprise. I really don’t think I would have wanted to work for another company. I wanted to work on my own, but that was and is a great firm with wonderful people.
However, that was an eyeopening experience back in 2008-2009. I feel like I learned a lot.
This is not related to that company, but here are some things to watch for if you think your company might in trouble. If you see these signs it might be time to look at your options. Get ahead of things before they get bad.
Lots of companies go under during good times, which we’ve been in for almost a decade. More go under during times of struggle, which could be right around the corner.
Sign #1. Less Interaction With C-Suite
One of the great things I experienced at that company I mentioned above was that the executive team was good at making themselves available. The CEO would come around about once a month and stop in every office.
It’s a small thing to do although it probably took up most of his afternoon, but it made a difference. He would ask what you were doing. You could ask him just about any question.
It really seemed like the executives were working for the employees. They wanted to know how they could help employees better do their jobs.
Obviously the executives were responsible for a lot more and employees knew that, but it was great to feel like there was open communication.
I think it’s human nature, though, for people to avoid interaction when things are bad. Probably for fear of saying the wrong thing. If the company is struggling you don’t want to tell everyone because their work might suffer and the company will do even worse.
So watch for this. It doesn’t always mean things are bad, but if previously available executives suddenly become unavailable it could be because they’re avoiding interaction.
Sign #2. Short-Term Agendas
This is a big one here. If you’re stressed to make money in the short-term you’re almost always setting yourself for long-term failure.
And I know the position. Obviously there are times when you need to pay the bills and find food to eat. You have to do what you can right now, but the key is to still keep a focus on the long-term.
Companies that start only thinking about the short-term stand a good chance of not surviving.
Discounting is one thing to look for. It might work for a month or two, but what are the long-term effects? How will it impact the brand? How will it impact customer behavior in five years?
And it’s not just sales. It’s everything. Requirements from employees. Interaction with customers.
Watch things around you and ask the question, “How does this decision affect the long-term?”.
Sign #3. Frequent Change In Strategy
Once companies start lurching from strategy to strategy they’re almost always in a death spiral.
Good companies, ones that succeed in the long run usually have a core strategy. They stick with it. They also constantly experiment. Little experiments. And by the time they make a change in strategy they have a lot of data to back up the decision. They’re not just hoping that a new strategy will work.
If your boss comes to you one month with one new grand strategy and comes back the next telling you to completely change things you really want to think about your other work options.
Sign #4. Declining Quality
Are you getting more feedback from customers that quality is slipping?
The natural course of things should be that quality improves while prices go down. Technology improves. Efficiencies improve. It all leads to better quality and lower prices.
But companies that are in trouble go against this grain. They start cutting corners. Production. Sourcing. All of it. And customers will notice. They might put up with it for a short time, but eventually they’ll find another solution.
You want to see things improving with your products. You want to see prices slowly going down if possible. If your company isn’t lowering prices the competition will.
Sign #5. No Hires, More Responsibility
A hiring freeze is a big indicator that the company is not growing. Most people know this. You might also notice that you and others are getting more responsibility. Maybe even promotions! But without much more pay. The company may sell it to you that you’re getting better at your job and that they value you, but the money doesn’t back up their talk.
One caveat here is that the company may be hiring, but only because a lot of people are leaving. There is obviously a potential issue with that one too.
At some point in the future you have to think that something will turn in the economy. And it doesn’t even have to get to that point for some companies. When I first started working a decade ago one takeaway I had was that each individual is responsible for themselves. If you think a company owes you anything you’re just fooling yourself and you’ll be unnecessarily surprised when something happens.