The travails of the last few years have forced many of us to become better business people. As the outlook improves, it’s time to focus on applying the lessons we’ve learned or we will be forced to repeat our mistakes.  So, how do you survive the recession and become a better manager for it? Here are a few things I've learned so far:

  • Don’t trust the experts. Instead, learn to think critically. Look at problems in an unbiased manner and with fresh eyes—and remember that you don’t have to be first, but you do want to be right. 

  • Delegate. As a manager you can talk about the direction the company is headed, but that means little unless you’ve put the right people in place to implement it your vision.

  • If cash is king, then the banks are God—or at least most of them think they are. Keep a close eye on your company’s banking relationship and remember that what’s important to the bank should also be important to you.

  • Understanding the role of arrogance and humility during a downturn is key for managers who want to keep their team together. I’ll let you decide which trait should go and which one should stay.

  • Your already-thick skin probably has some calluses. If you hold a grudge by not doing business with anyone who has done you wrong over the last three years then you might as well close shop now. Good people did desperate things, leaving a lot of wounds that now can be healed by managing risk with current realities. If perfect credit is a requirement for doing business in the future, then many companies will close.

  • Be careful with cutbacks. An overworked, under-staffed company can be a catalyst for mistakes that outweigh the savings made by scaling back your workforce in the first place. Don’t cut costs only to kill profits, reduce the quality of you customer service, and hurt morale. 

  • Know your numbers. Don’t fully rely on others to paint your company’s financial picture for you without expecting them to do so in a way that will enhance their own performance. 

  • The 10,000-foot view of your company may be a comfortable cruising altitude, but from that high up all you’ll see are the golf courses. Companies that are thriving, or at least surviving, have leaders who walk among their employees and hunker down with them in the trenches.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply in Leesburg, Fla. He can be reached at or