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MORRIS: Feeling (mostly) thankful this year

Greg Morris
November 19, 2011
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MorrisThanksgiving week is here. Can you believe it? Where has the year gone? Company budgets for next year are being finalized over the next few weeks. The holidays will come and go in a flash, and we’ll be able to put this year in the history books before you know what happened. This Thanksgiving, I’m feeling mostly in a thankful mood, but January—a month that comes with unique challenges—is looming.

Being a sales guy in the media business for a third of a century (that sounds longer than 33 years), I always worry about finishing the current year strong and getting the new year off to a good start in January. The finishing-strong part usually happens, but feeling like you’ve got any traction for January is elusive.

After mid-December, a lot of business folks concentrate only on what absolutely has to be accomplished to close out the year. They think it’s too early to worry about January, even though they know they should. Then, many business execs don’t really get back to full speed until the second or third week in January. By that time, the month is almost over from a revenue-generating standpoint. Yes, this is feeling like another January to me.

January’s worst qualities are snow, cold, ice and wind—a driver’s nightmare. As Al Pacino often said in the movie “Donnie Brasco”—forget about it. It takes twice as long to get to work and go home in such conditions. So, after all these years, I’ve officially decided something I already knew: I hate January. I figure the only logical solution is to pack up and go someplace warm until the weather improves and decision-makers get back to work. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Sorry to get off on a rant, but the thought of January’s quickly approaching makes me crazy. I meant for this column to be a positive look at the conclusion of another tough year in business. The truth is, this Thanksgiving, I’m very thankful our company is finishing the year strong and that there is optimism for an even stronger year in 2012.

Like many industries, the media business has been challenging for more than a few years now. However, when you put your mind to the task at hand and take it one day, one week, one month and one quarter at a time, the process seems manageable.

Out of necessity, I know many companies have figured out how to save money these past few years. Now it’s time to grow the bottom line through increased revenue while keeping a tight rein on expenses. That’s what we’ll be working on in 2012 and I know that’s what many other companies will be concentrating on, too. And, I’m more optimistic for that revenue growth today than I was at this time last year. I’m thankful for that.

Managing through challenging times is interesting. Sometimes, the most gratifying achievements occur while you’re not feeling all that successful. What I mean by that is this: In the course of implementing new procedures to accomplish tasks and goals more efficiently with fewer resources, sometimes you find out some amazing things. You discover you have an even more talented staff than you thought you had. You find out that great people can come together and accomplish great things working together as a dedicated team. Certainly that has been the case here at IBJ, and I’m feeling very thankful that I have the opportunity to work alongside such wonderful people. Many CEOs feel the same way.

It’s a lot easier to feel good about life when everything is going great guns. You’ve heard the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. But, when things get tough for an extended period, that’s when you find out what you and your team and your company are made of. Legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi was credited with saying, “It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you’ve got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.” I’ve got the faith!

So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for my family and friends, good health, blessings bestowed, and for the opportunity to work for a great company, which would be nothing without our wonderful team. Happy Thanksgiving, and I wish you the same good fortune. Thanks for reading IBJ.•

__________

Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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