Tough times bring business opportunities

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Crisis? It would seem so. Despite spikes and blips, the Great Recession continues. Unemployment spirals, manufacturing craters, malevolent banksters still game the system and sundry companies seek new ways to squeeze blood from stones.

Despite the economic downturn, the mini-growth industry of books that seek to seize upon these hard times continues to blossom. Aside from the scores of soporific insider stories of financial institutions gone wild, all sorts of tomes regularly appear, instructing how to use the tough times to reinvent and revitalize businesses.

I’m always wary of books authored by working consultants ? and with good reason: They often read like expanded brochures for their own services. In the guise of expounding their supposedly unique insights, they often unsubtly flog their own equally “unique” offerings.

With so many “experts” out there, it’s important that their own needs are on hold in order to deal with readers’ challenges as unambiguously as possible. After their expertise is established in this benefit-oriented manner, business will follow! Despite a few instances of incipient consultantitis, both of these new books are worth your time and attention.

Though neither focuses solely on the current situation, the analysis and advice is more long-term than emergency triage. We’ll take another look at books specifically written with the current situation in mind in the future.

“Winning in Turbulence” by Darrell Rigby. Harvard Business School Press. 160 pages.

Rigby has the right idea, at least as far as package and presentation. This pocket-size volume is a concise look at the range of challenges businesses constantly face and how they can be dealt with in efficacious and intelligent ways. That’s rather ambitious, naturally, so depicting each situation in minute detail is impossible.

In general terms, the scenarios are clearly presented and comprehensible ? if not comprehensive. As you might expect, the remedies are mostly quite practical, but in an era when common sense is anything but common, this little primer is, at the very least, a solid reminder of many of the essential strategies and tactics for survival.

“Leading in Times of Crisis: Navigating Through Complexity, Diversity and Uncertainty to Save Your Business” by David L. Dotlich, Stephen H. Rhinesmith, Peter C. Cairo. Jossey-Bass. 227 pages.

This is a more traditional book of advice and inspiration, with lots of examples and case studies. But the focus here is primarily on leadership and its obvious role in navigating organizations and people through rough waters and uncertain conditions.

The authors’ line of attack is holistic and thoroughly modern, looking at the power of diversity, for example, as an asset in expanding into the global marketplace. Innovation and creative destruction are also part of the mix, as the authors demonstrate an easy familiarity with contemporary thinking as well as a deep knowledge of the traditional.

There’s no guarantee that reading this book (or Rigby’s) will inoculate any enterprise against the deleterious side-effects from managing amid the irregular rhythms of the current chaotic marketplace. Given the difficulty of demonstrating courage and tenacity in the best of circumstances, even all the information herein won’t assure success. But understanding the terrain and how others have coped with similar problems is a good way to prepare for future challenges.

(c) 2009, The Miami Herald. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.