Q: I need to make a handful of redundancies in my retail supply business. I'm finding it a very difficult process, and in several instances have to choose between one person's skill and knowledge and another person's can-do attitude but little real experience. I feel as though it's a choice between consolidating what I've got or taking a risk for the future. What's your advice?
A: I don't envy you. This is a horrible thing to have to do and the decisions you make are never going to be perfect. But one way to go about it is to think of the effect of the individual redundancies on those fortunate enough to retain their jobs. If there are two people who are equally able, but one of them is more of a one-man band while the other is a much-appreciated team player, then it's the one-man band who should go. I'm not suggesting you hold a popularity contest; just that there are times when a spirit of co-operation and mutual help is more than usually necessary.
Redundancies inevitably cast a cloud over the whole business. If the majority view is that the wrong person went, then the cloud is needlessly darker.
On your consolidation-versus-enterprise question, try to resist adopting a bunker mentality. It really is true that recessions offer up the occasional competitive opportunity. Customers reassess their needs and look around. Under these circumstances, people with energy, optimism and new ideas can be invaluable. Undue defensiveness can seem dangerously like complacency.
Customers never like to be taken for granted. In times of recession, it can be deadly.