Guest Post

If This Madness All Ended Tomorrow, I Would Do…Almost Nothing

by Matt Blumberg
10/21/2009

I don't know what you call the last 12 months of global macroeconomic meltdown. I've taken to calling it the Great Repression. In part because it's somewhere in between a Recession and a Depression, in part because it's certainly repressed the wants and needs of startups and growth companies the world over. And it makes for good cocktail party chatter.

Someone asked me a question the other day, which started off with "Now that the recession is over..." I can't even remember the end of the question. I got lost in the framing of it, mostly because I'm not convinced it's over yet. Fine, fine, Bernanke says it's over. But he couldn't possibly have used more caveats or more cautious language to couch his statement. I haven't seen great signs of a recovery, in any case. But the question got me thinking. What would I do if the recession really was over, or if I knew that, say, tomorrow, the heavens would open up and swallow our inflation fears, deflation fears, and collective global deficits whole?

You know what? I wouldn't do a thing. That's not entirely true. I'd probably sleep better that night. But I wouldn't do a lot of other things out of the gate. This last year has tested nerves. My nerve as a CEO, my Board's nerve, and the collective nerve of our organization. And we've pulled off a great year. We will still grow close to 50%, we greatly expanded our operating margins and are generating nice cash flow, and we preserved all jobs, salaries, and core benefits (all five of our objectives that I laid out 12 months ago when the &*%$ started to hit the fan).

So, why wouldn't I do anything different if I knew the world would be a different place tomorrow? Because holding our nerve this past year has changed a lot of things about our organization for the better, and I don't want to see us reverse course on those things just because we can. Here's one example, one of many we have: when we cut our travel budget by 50% this year, everyone on the team looked at us like we were crazy and said there was no way we'd be able to make budget. Guess what ‚ we BEAT the slashed budget by almost a third, without complaint! Why should we triple it going forward to get back to where we were?

Anyway, other companies can lose their nerve when they aren't forced to have it. As for me and Return Path, while we will certainly move some things back to normal over time as the world improves, it won't be a wholesale reversion to yesteryear.

Matt Blumberg is Chairman & CEO of email deliverability company Return Path, which he founded in 1999.

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