I’m back from a 4 week hiatus; did anyone miss me?  While our presidential candidates were jetting from battleground state to battleground state, I was also on the road visiting with clients and prospects, though without the luxury of a private jet.  A few good books on CD and meeting with great people was award enough, but driving late and working until the wee hours in hotel rooms while on the road isn’t real conducive to blogging.  At least not for me.

While I was on “blog hiatus” I jotted down all sorts of topics to blog on, so I’ve got a nice full plate of stuff to write about in the coming weeks (man, I’m putting myself on the hook here by taking away my excuses).  Lots of business stuff, some products we’re working on, interests and concerns I’m hearing from our customers, and–of course–the economy and our new president.  Also while on hiatus I worked with Jay Torrence, my VP of Client Services, on a new article we’re about to release on the topic of acculturation onboarding, which will be fodder for a whole series of blogs.  I hope you stay tuned, and I hope I’ve got some some things to say that you’ll find interesting and valuable.

While I was on the road over the last few weeks, all the news of the economy was doom and gloom.  While I certainly see people being affected, I still see a tremendous amount of not only optimism going on, but also real business.  Perhaps it’s the particular segments and industries of the markets we work in, perhaps it’s the value of our products, or perhaps the media is blowing bad economic news out of proportion.  I suspect it’s a combination of all three, with a couple of additional factors.

Small businesses, like us and yes, Joe the Plumber, seem to me to (so far) have been relatively unaffected by the economic situation.  We (small business collectively, not just Emerald Software) just keep on working, getting new clients and keeping clients happy.  I hear the same from my partners and colleagues.  Many of us small businesses are still growing, and in fact one of my colleagues expects business in 2009 to triple!  So while the giant multinationals are laying off people by the thousands, we’ll cherry pick through their discarded human resources, then we’ll pick up the disgruntled clients who they can’t adequately service anymore.  Yes, there is a silver lining in this economic situation, assuming (like most of us small businesses) you’re self-funded, not backed by junk investments and securities.  I like to say we’re backed by personal commitment, not by leveraged funds.  Small business truly is the backbone of our economy.

But another significant factor is that there are good companies out there–large and small–who are well managed and can take advantage of the current economic situation.  For a healthy bank like Wells Fargo, Wachovia was a steal that wouldn’t have been possible a year ago.  Healthy, well managed companies use down time to build their infrastructure; what better time is there for an organization to build out their onboarding and acculturation infrastructure than while their hiring is the lowest it’s been since the last recession?  Healthy, well managed companies have the means to improve their processes and prepare for the inevitable economic bounce, and I’m proud to say that the majority of our client base is represented by healthy, well managed companies.  If you’re such a company, we’d like to help you improve your business processes, get more competitive, and prepare for the future.

So while all the doom and gloom continues, small businesses like us continue to work hard beneath the storm, where the clouds actually do have silver linings and it’s raining top-notch human resources and underserved customers.  Down here, there’s optimism.

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