Navigating the Process of Recovery

My friend Jeannine has spent a rough few months recovering from knee surgery after taking a bad fall while out running.

When asked how she’s doing, she likes to quip: “The falling down part wasn’t so bad, but getting back up has been murder.”

In some ways, the same can be said of the economy. Sure, everyone says the worst is over, and that things are slowly getting better. In fact, when KBDN polled dealers and designers this month about the impact of the economy and their future plans, the majority were largely optimistic (see Signs of Hope).

Many were planning to increase the number of displays and product lines; others expected to sell more jobs at higher prices this year.Some noted plans to restore previously cut staff and services. And still others cited a host of new growth areas such as green design (see Sustainable Design supplement), partial remodeling jobs or other-room jobs such as closet systems, home offices and outdoor living spaces.

It seems clear from their responses that rock bottom is well in the past for most of us, and now there’s nowhere to go but up.

Yet most of those surveyed also agreed that the process of getting back up has been as painful – or in some cases even more painful – than the fall itself.

As one dealer explained it, “Even though we’re seeing improvements, there are so many things we’re still contending with. Designer fatigue, the sheer exhaustion from 18 months of battling with consumers looking to chew us down on every tiny detail, cutthroat competition from the Internet and cheap imports, the build up of stress from all of the uncertainty and doing more with less for so long…it’s just difficult. And then trying to dig down and find renewed enthusiasm to tackle the new economy and the new consumer that has morphed out of all of this, to climb back up…well, some days I don’t know if we’ll survive the recovery itself!”

If building a business is hard, rebuilding is doubly challenging. At least when you’re starting out, you have that spark of energy that comes from building something new and exciting, realizing a dream and bringing that dream to life. At the beginning, you expect things to be hard. You’re prepared for it.

But how do you combat having to effectively “start over” after years in business? Who wants to have to come up with all-new selling strategies, marketing concepts, business models and more, in hopes of one day getting back to where you were several years ago?

“Didn’t we already do this?” one dealer lamented, when asked about his plans for moving forward.

Yet, maybe we all need to find a new perspective.

In a recent Kitchen & Bath Design News Webcast about the new kitchen and bath consumer, speaker and KBDN columnist Leslie Hart talked about the power of “re” words in getting consumers excited: words like remodel, rethink, rejuvenate, reimagine. Re words, she noted, are positive and uplifting – something that is greatly needed in today’s oftentimes depressing climate.

Sure, they’re just words. They don’t pay the bills, fix the economy, or create hoards of eager customers. But words do inspire ideas, and form the building blocks for dreams, which become visions, which, in turn, become realities.

Equally important, they are essential to getting clients excited about a new project and a process that can be, by all accounts, a lot of work and a lot of stress.

A process that isn’t so very different from what many design firms are facing today with their own personal recovery process.

So maybe it’s time to look at some of those re words to get yourself excited as well.

The new economic realities may be daunting, but there’s something exciting about having the chance to reimagine your business, and revisit the magic you felt when you first started out. Recovery may not be fun, but it can be rejuvenating…and when you rejuvenate your business, you ultimately rejuvenate your life.