I’m having a little
trouble adjusting. For the last few years, whenever anyone asked the
perfunctory "How’s business?" question, I would shake my head,
purse my lips and talk recession.
Everyone seemed to be struggling. The
fight was not to prosper but to survive. Conversation centered around who
was the latest to go under and who would be next.
The dialogue would go on indefinitely,
discussing who or what was responsible for the sour business. We’d whine
and moan and generally have a grand old time reveling in our camaraderie.
Then slowly, things began to change.
This is very difficult for me to admit, but therapy requires me to do so.
So here goes: Business got better.
That’s not enough. I’ve got to open
up. OK, business is good. That’s it, come on now, you can do it, let it
flow, one more step, release your inhibitions. Ok, Ok, here it comes:
Business is Booming.
I did it! What a relief to finally
change course and climb out of the recession rut. Doggone it, business is
indeed booming, and I want the world to know.
Unfortunately, the world, or at least
my little world, doesn’t want to hear it.
"What do you mean business is
booming?" my friend Simpson said when I told him the good news.
"My business is still flat. Why are you doing so well?"
"We’ve made a lot of
changes," I replied, sensing his jealousy, "and they’re
Simpson, who usually made daily calls
to commiserate, suddenly stopped calling as often, and our talks became
I shrugged it off. Once I broke through
the barrier, there was no stopping me. In a matter of weeks, my
conversational skills went from stellar to pathetic.
"How’s business?" yet
another compatriot would ask.
"Great," I would reply.
"Booming. Fantastic. How about you?"
"Not so good. Lousy." End of
There was one saving grace – my
employees. While the rest of the world had little interest in celebrating
my booming business, the employees who helped make it possible certainly
enjoyed discussing the upturn.
The problem was that their interest
extended beyond conversation. For some inexplicable reason, they expected
to share in the prosperity.
It was time for more adjusting. First I
had to learn how to talk about the good times. Now I had to learn how to
pay for them.
Bonuses. It had been a long time since
anyone in my company had received an extra stipend. I sat down and with
hands trembling penciled an equitable distribution of bonuses to key
Finishing, my first reaction was that I
had far too many key employees. This booming business stuff was beginning
to be expensive.
I wanted to give my really key
employees their checks personally. I first asked Ralph, my general
manager, to come to my office.
"Business is sure booming," I said to him when he
Talk about conversation! We spent a
good half hour discussing our contributions and patting each other on the
back. This was even more fun than commiserating with my former compatriots
about the recession.
"I’ve got something for you, old
buddy," I said. "A bonus for sticking with me through the hard
times and a grateful acknowledgement of your contribution to the good
times we’re enjoying now."
Ralph got all choked up. He was
pleasantly surprised by the amount. It had been a long time coming.
Ms. Ferguson, my loyal office manager,
was next up. Another lively discussion ensued about what a wonderful place
the world is. We could have gone on for hours, but the phone rang. Ms.
Ferguson answered; it was Simpson.
"I don’t want to talk to him
right now," I said. "I’ll just depress him."
Ms. Ferguson, as is her style, relayed
the message verbatim, then paused to listen. "Simpson says he just
got his numbers for July, and he’s up 16%. He says you can stick your
arrogance in your ear."
I smiled. Simpson obviously had yet to
understand the lonely world of prosperity he was entering. But he would
learn, as did I.
We can only hope the education goes on