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Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Business
The StevenDouglas leadership team is comprised of executives with decades of business experience and many stories about navigating success, despite what life or the economy throws at them. We want to share these valuable lessons to help others prosper in uncertain times, be inspired, and know that there is always a way to progress, regardless of the circumstances you face.
LEADERSHIP LESSON #3: ALWAYS PREPARE FOR THE COMEBACK
As part of the professional workforce since the early 1980’s, this is now my 4th severe economic downturn, including 1987, 2001, 2007, and today. While each one of these downturns were caused by different factors, they all came with an initial feeling of imminent doom. Then one day I learned, they all also came with a comeback – one that you need to prepare for when you are in the “crisis”, not after it’s over. I was very lucky to learn this lesson early in my career.
Back in October of 1987 I was working for a NYC based executive search firm and Wall Street had crashed pretty much in one day as the Dow fell 22.6% on what was known as Black Monday (October 22nd). We were quickly thrust into a recession. Major companies disappeared and some were bought out for pennies on the dollar. As an executive recruiter, I was working on dozens of open job requirements with Wall Street clients and within a few days, it seemed like everyone went on a hiring freeze. Our entire company was caught off guard and had no answers. While we discussed what to do and how bad things looked, one of our co-workers, Carole, was busy on the phone calling people she knew, people she hadn’t spoken to in over 10 years, and even calling people she didn’t know. She just kept moving forward.
It seemed so futile to many of us. What good would it do? No one was hiring now, and if they did start to hire, there were hundreds of candidates who were unemployed, and ready to swoop in and take those positions. I kept thinking, “Who needs a Wall Street recruiter right now?”. But Carole kept plowing ahead, making her calls, listening to people, offering advice, or just a friendly voice.
Months later things began to improve, and phones started to ring again. Guess who was receiving most of those incoming calls? Yes, Carole. When the economy really kicked-in, and business was back to normal, Carole had already prepared for the comeback. She was lightyears ahead of all of us. She found business in the crisis, and then prospered big when the economy came back. That really stayed with me…never stop taking positive actions because there’s always a comeback to take advantage of.
Sept. 11th, 2001 was more of a hard punch to the gut. Not only was 9/11 tragic, our economy crashed hard too. In rapid succession, the U.S. initiated the war in Afghanistan, major corporate scandals like Enron ensued, SARS struck parts of the world, and the Iraq War began. I knew from the lesson Carole taught me, that it was critical to keep building relationships and pushing forward. We didn’t just bounce back, but the war for talent was on again in full force, with companies aggressively hiring just a couple years later. Because of what I learned from Carole, I was not only prepared, but ahead of the comeback.
From 2007-2009 there was a financial disaster, and once again, many were paralyzed with the fear of uncertainty. Unemployment in the U.S. peaked at 10 percent in late 2009. I called even more people, connected with lots of folks, and even helped evolve our IT division at StevenDouglas. When things recovered, we were positioned to take advantage of the economic comeback. We grew the firm 400% over the next 10 years, and in 2019 unemployment dropped to its lowest level in 50 years.
Now here we are in yet another serious crisis, one made even more serious because it’s literally life and death. As we have experienced after the first 3 downturns that I’ve pointed out, this 4th one too will end. Right now, great leaders, companies and employees are doing exactly what Carole showed me back in 1987. They are reaching out to clients, trying to help others, and focusing on the work that is still in front of us, and this is essential to flourish and grow with the inevitable comeback.
~ Steve Kalisher, EVP at StevenDouglas
About the Author:
Mr. Kalisher, who manages StevenDouglas’ corporate Information Technology Search practice, has an impressive track record of successfully completing search assignments with many of the mid-market and Fortune 500 companies in South Florida, as well as with his national accounts.
Steve began his career in executive search in 1982 in New York City where he placed IT professionals with Fortune 500 clients, including Wall Street companies such as J.P. Morgan and Chase Manhattan Bank. In 1987, Steve founded Galaxy Management Group, a New York-based executive search firm specializing in corporate IT search for the greater New York-area marketplace.
In 1992, Steve moved to South Florida to join StevenDouglas and help build the firm’s corporate information technology practice. His extensive experience in information technology search has enabled him to successfully complete key search assignments for such positions as CIO/CTO, director, middle management, system analysts, programmer analysts, and engineer level positions.