Golden Business Ideas

Add a Pinch of Crisis

Contrary to conventional wisdom, crisis isn’t so bad. In fact, many people thrive on it.

Crisis triggers an adrenalin rush that, in turn, is often a catalyst for creativity. It gives people an opportunity to show their mettle, to demonstrate that they can rise to the challenge and meet tight deadlines.

Have you ever noticed how once a crisis has passed and the staff has risen to the challenge, many actually feel a bit let down—even depressed—when they return to the normal routine?

Of course, if crisis is sustained or new ones pop up week after week, even the best employees can get burned out.

So how can a shrewd manager take advantage of this phenomenon?

Consider assigning a breakthrough project that everyone involved recognizes as both urgent and beneficial to the company and staff. Once the project is achieved, be sure the staff is amply rewarded and the efforts fully recognized with a clear “well done.”

The Right Way to Cut Costs

In this faltering economy, cutting costs is high on every manager’s agenda. As with all things, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Surprisingly, many organizations seem more adept at picking the wrong way.

Probably the worst cost-cutting strategy is to indiscriminately lop off X% of your workforce across the board. It’s bad for three reasons: financial, strategic and morale. What an across-the-board cut says is that you have no priorities, no long-term or even short-term goals and you don’t think enough of your staff to ask for suggestions on how to save money. Here are a few better ways to cut costs:

Operations: Whether your business involves manufacturing things or processing paperwork, search out your organization’s “errors”—factory rework, office errors, cost overruns, defective incoming material, poor maintenance. In other words, focus on the costly problems that not only inflate expenses but also drain employee morale.

Purchasing: Review supplies ordered on short notice (at higher prices and inflated last-minute delivery charges) and find out what’s being done to ensure adequate but not excessive inventory. Check “low” bids on what turns out to be inferior goods.

Sales: Pull up old sales records and identify customers who have reduced purchases or stopped buying entirely and focus sales efforts on them. Remember, it costs more to get new customers than to keep existing ones.

If you start with these ideas, you’re sure to come up with many more of your own.

Say “You’re Wrong”—Without Saying “Good-bye”

You know you’re going to have to disagree, but how do you do it without slamming the door behind you?

Assuming you’re calm enough to avoid name calling, the simple way to keep the conversation moving forward is to search for something you can agree on.

Traps to avoid: When rebutting the other person’s position, the most explosive word is “but.” It immediately makes people defensive. For example, don’t say, “I understand your position, but it doesn’t address the problem.”
An alternative: “I understand your position, and I think it may be useful in the future.”

Another potentially explosive word: “you.” It sounds critical when you say, “You have missed the point.”

An alternative: “I was thinking of something different.”

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


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