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Achieving Growth Despite Recession

by Guest Writter
Norman Wedderburn, President & CEO, Make-A-Wish Southern Florida

Imagine a business that doesn’t sell a product or provide a service, instead focuses solely on providing an intangible and unquantifiable emotion. Imagine also if one chooses to be involved only when their heart is moved.

This is a challenge in any economic climate but herculean when the economy shifts. As the CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida my business success is dependent on navigating the ebb and flow of life, some joyous, some tragic.

Most reports state non-profit organizations were hit hard during the recession, with nearly 87% reporting a decline in their operations due to the state of the U.S. economy, leaving many non-profits in a weaker financial position. However, as I would say, we decided not to participate in the recession, it did not seem like fun, so we didn’t.

With the lessons I’ve learned, any business can flourish.

1. Reevaluate, Reconsider and Reengineer:

During the recession, we moved offices, replaced our computer system, ramped up our Brand Advancement team, increased our spending on signature events, provided more training to our staff, and reinvested in our brand and community presence.

Look within your organization to identify enhancement opportunities. It is important for organizations to reevaluate and reinvest during the ‘hard’ times – don’t cut your costs just to cut, rather mind the pennies and spend smarter.

Many companies stay stagnant or even regress during tough times both operationally and emotionally. However, nobody wants to be around somebody that is only there during the good times. Always be present, available and understanding.

2. The best businesses stand for something – scream for what you stand for:

Reinforcing company culture is key. Remind everyone in and connected to your business, of your mission and tell an authentic story on repeat; work harder and be the very best your company can be. Never let outside forces deviate your organization and yourself from your goal(s).

A great way to showcase your culture is doing more for others. Great businesses know it’s not a one-way street. How you communicate to your community and find ways to work together and solve their issues is equally important.

3. Make everyone a stakeholder:

Allow your stakeholders to take ownership of their brand and believe in it wholeheartedly. Saying we were not going to participate in a recession was not being flippant, but ensuring from the top down that we all took responsibility.

By taking the lead, you can convey your confidence and belief in your business to your stakeholders, and they will too. Keep the spirits up – never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

Remaining nimble, mindful and shrewd is essential for a leader to create growth and opportunity in any organization. By reshaping how my philanthropy operated with smarter practices, we were able to achieve a 77 percent increase in revenue from the start of the recession in 2007 through 2013. Make-A-Wish Southern Florida never backed down on wishes, no employee lost their job and today we are one of the strongest children’s charities in the community.

Always ensure that the mission is served first and foremost, stick to core business principles, and solve others’ needs as passionately as you wish to solve your and business can skyrocket into success.


About the Author

Norman Wedderburn is the current President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, the second leader in the local group’s 30-year history. He served for eight years on the Southern Florida Chapter’s Board of Director where he was Board Chair in 2003 and has represented the organization at the national level. Under Wedderburn’s direction, the Southern Florida Chapter currently grants a wish every 16 hours and is the fifth largest Make-A-Wish Chapter in the organizations 61 Chapters throughout the U.S. and 38 Chapters across the globe. Early this November, the organization raised $2.5 million at their annual InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball; in its 20 year history the Ball has raised more than $16.8 million, enough to grant the wishes of more than 3,500 children in the South Florida area.

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