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CAREERS CLINIC

I AM worried that after the election there is going to be another round of problems for the economy and that I am going to have to make cuts in my department. We’ve already been through the recession, how do I deal with this?

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer once said that you can always do without the bottom 10 per cent of your workforce and that you should always be looking to cut them. But normally we live with inefficiencies. One of the ways I think about it is that in good times it’s like we are all sitting around a lovely duck-pond, but in troubled times the water starts draining out and you see all the rusty prams and trolleys that were always there but you never paid any attention to. Once you can see it, you start fishing it out.

Think of a football team that suddenly starts losing 2-0 every week. If you know that your left-back is rubbish, then that’s the moment that you should be looking to change him. A crisis gives you the permission to behave more decisively and to sort out the problems. There are two ways to get through a storm – you either return to port, or you lash yourself to the mast and head on through. The second tactic might be more turbulent, but you get to the other side quicker. So you have to generate the Dunkirk spirit and don’t retreat into your bunker. Talk to people, they like to be treated as adults. Waiting to see what is going to happen, and whether you are going to get the chop, is depressing and carcinogenic to the company.

You have to take decisions quickly and decisively. A lack of momentum is deadly. Death by a thousand cuts is depressing – and when you do cut, don’t just cut the little things like water-coolers that save you little bits of money but cause a lot of resentment.

Leaders are not just people that occupy a certain position in a hierarchy, they are people who inspire loyalty and one part of that is by being seen to be decisive. So you have to go in with a bang and make changes.

In general, you have to focus on what are the generators of your future profitability.

Oh, and remember that things aren’t depressing in tough times – they’re interesting.

Alex Pratt is the director of Serious Brands and author of Austerity Business: 39 Tips for Doing More With Less.