Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finding the good in a bad economy

We are officially in a recession. Now what? Companies are laying off record numbers of workers. Now what? State and local governments are predicting huge deficits. Now what?

As tax revenues decline, local governments will be forced to reduce budgets. This can result in significant challenges to the providers of local government services, especially those who provide essential services.

Fire departments who have done the same thing the same way for a long period of time may find it difficult to find creative solutions in these difficult times. However difficult it it may be, fire department leaders must break out of the "that's the way we've always done it" mold and think creatively. I know of no vocation that is required to be more creative on a regular basis than the fire service. However, you are used to solving other people's problems and this time the problem is yours.

It is harder to solve a problem when you are emotionally attached to it. No fire department wants to cut any services that dedicated personnel have worked so hard to provide. No fire department wants to see members receive a pay raise that does not keep pace with inflation. No fire department wants to merge with a neighboring department and risk giving up their identity. But all these things are on the table.

Challenging economic times like these do not create character, but such times will expose the character of your members and challenge your leadership. I encourage you to be strong, principled, rational, and above all else, open-minded as you look for innovative ways to weather this stormy economy.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO

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