A top 10 list can be a humorous way to point out a sensitive topic. Combining fun and training; here is my list of symptoms that indicate a recession may be hurting your business.


Your best salesperson’s commission backup plan is to win “America’s Got Talent.”

With a tougher economy and more price-sensitive customers, many salespeople are finding they are not as good as they thought they were. Now is the time to clearly communicate what your company has to offer and what value that brings to the table. In a recession customers become more value driven, but it is not your customer’s responsibility to figure out the difference between your bid and your competitor’s bid.


Your field force is so old their next goal in life is to have their birthday announced by Willard Scott on NBC’s “Today.”

Employees should be valued and looked out after, but a workforce that is too mature can dramatically increase cost. If your company let all of its helpers go, your average hourly rate might have dramatically increased and not be competitive in today’s market. In theory, having two lead people or foremen on one job should make it more productive, but in reality two bosses can slow things down.


Ex-Florida electoral officials are punching your time cards and tallying job costing.

When there are fewer jobs, each and every job has to count. Job costing needs to be accurate and timely to ensure that problems are fixed before they worsen. Too many companies spend thousands of dollars to generate cost data that comes in too late with few people analyzing the trends.


You are awash with cash to lend to family members and freeloading friends.

For commercial contractors, cash can increase as sales and profits decrease. Fewer sales mean less receivables and less money tied up in your cash cycle pipeline. Don’t let a temporary positive cash flow situation lull you into complacency. If your business is losing money, those losses will eventually turn into cash flow losses.


There are so many trucks on your lot, the Auto Dealers Association contacted you about selling trucks without a dealer’s license.

When times were good, many contractors used 100 percent depreciation opportunities and zero percent financing to buy too much equipment and are now stuck making payments on idle equipment. Unless you have the cash to wait things out, liquidate the equipment you don’t need.


You’re obsessed with being a contestant on “I Want To Be a Millionaire.”

It is nice to make money. Money gives us options, but I have never seen how much someone is worth written on their gravestone. Accept the fact that the economy is slower and you are in a new business environment. Remember, it does no good to reach your financial goals if you hate the journey it takes to get there. Regroup and learn to enjoy the journey. On the other side, avoid denial. It is amazing how many contractors I talk with that believe next year will be better yet they do the same thing over and over expecting different results. If your business is failing, it is not your competitor’s, the government’s or the banker’s fault. And so what if it is. None of them are going to reach out and save your butt. You must do that. No one is going to help you but you. (OK, I might help. Call me at 800 864-0284 and I will offer help if I can, no charge for the first call.)


The “Jerry Springer” show called and your bookkeeper is going to meet you there tomorrow. 

Tough times make for more theft and embezzlement. Keep your eye on the company store. The more you know your numbers, the less likely you are to be victimized.


The White House interior decorator stopped by to admire your glorious office.

You are not going to save your contracting business sitting behind a desk. Contracting is a participative sport. Leadership requires action. Now is not the time to play general; you need to be on the front line. Call on past customers. Visit jobs. Make an extra effort. Lead by example. Pick up the phone right now and call six people who might help your business.


The U.S. Budget Office has approved your spending plan.

Unlike the government, you do not have an endless supply of income. Learning to live within your means can be a painful journey. Do you really need all the things you are spending money on? How can you adapt your personal and business budget? You are not AIG, GM, or Chase Manhattan - no one is going to lead you money. The mere mention of the word contractor throws many banks into cardiac arrest.


Your spouse and kids have asked if they can have visitation rights to your office. 

Yes, you need to be working hard. I am and so are most other business owners. But don’t confuse long hours with results. Too many businesses owners freeze up and become inefficient when business slows. Worrying about it, moving paper from one side of the desk to the other, etc., will not help. Focus on results and activities that make a difference. Keep a time card on yourself and assign values to the tasks you perform.