From the Publisher

Tough Times Bring Out the Best and Worst in People

By Brian Rowland, Publisher

During these days of economic challenge, many Americans are looking to Washington for a recovery solution that will help kick-start our economy and get our nation back on a solid financial foundation. But getting action out of Washington isn’t the only answer.

When times are tough, we need to look to ourselves and see what we can do to help our community and nation break out of these economic doldrums. This is the time for businesses and consumers, if they are able, to step up to the plate.

Businesses are feeling the financial squeeze in varied ways. For a magazine publishing company, our bread and butter is advertising, and that’s where we’re feeling some of the pinch.

Historically, 80 percent of our valued clients fulfill their end of our contractual bargain and pay their bills within 30 days. Over the following 60 days our accounts due normally whittle down to the industry standard of 3 percent bad debt.

Those paradigms have now shifted due to the recession we’re in. Yet I am amazed at the commitment many of our local businesses are making to meet their obligations.

Some are calling and asking to extend their payment terms or sending a note with the first of several payments. These are the businessmen and women who are riding the high road. And our company is bending over backwards to help them, continuing to run their ads in good faith.

Here’s a recent real example:

A retired 60-plus corporate executive who used his life savings — and mortgaged his home — to open a retail store 14 months ago recently conceded he was likely going bankrupt. Unable to pay his bill in cash, he offered up his merchandise. This man was indeed a class act with a high level of integrity — and an example of how we should all be conducting ourselves in these times.

Unfortunately, there are some who aren’t exhibiting as strong a moral character — and we’ve even had situations where stores were cleaned out in the dark of night after our representatives were promised a check would be ready the next day. In one case, all that was left was an empty bottle of wine and two glasses.

So, what’s the lesson in all of this?

First, the challenge for each and every one of us is to help our nation battle its way back out of the financial hole we are in.

Businesses should do everything possible to avoid shirking their fiscal responsibilities. When they don’t make good on their debts, they start a domino effect that can adversely impact other businesses, perhaps forcing some to lay off employees down the line to stay afloat. In these economic times, it’s better to face up to creditors than dodge them.

But consumers also need to do their part. Many are frozen in fear, afraid to spend any spare cash, unsure of what the future holds for them. They also could benefit from a little introspection.

Thaw out. Make lifestyle adjustments to live within your means, but spend a little. Even more importantly, spend it locally. The next time you sit down at the computer to order a gift via the Internet for a friend or relative — or something for yourself — think twice. When you order merchandise off the Web, in very few cases does the state get the sales tax it is owed, the benefit of your purchase is not felt locally and local shipping companies suffer when they are losing your business.

Keep in mind: The dollar you spend on a local store today may help your neighbor keep his or her job or business tomorrow.

Basically, it’s really up to every American consumer and business owner to decide. You can be part of the problem, allowing our great country to continue wallowing in the depths of economic despair. Or you can be part of the solution and recovery plan.  

So my question to you is this: What are you going to do?