Is the crisis in your mind?

Tremayne Elson Managing Director Antal Russia

If you see life the way I do, then there’s no crisis, only opportunity. Sure it’s been tough, but what are you supposed to do? Moan about it, or get on with it? I know I’m in a minority. Not the sort of minority status that means you are in danger when walking through a dark underpass or get abuse shouted at you.

I’m in the sort of minority that most people simply don’t understand. I am ready to reveal my secret to the English speaking community — I’m an eternal optimist. I can usually see a positive in most situations. The glass may be half full, but I see it as an opportunity to get a refill.

Now of course, the eternal pessimist isn’t unique to Russia. They exist in great numbers in every corner of the world, the only exception perhaps being the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea to you and me) — Those guys are optimists! And yes, I’ve been there. So unless you have, please don’t write a letter to the editor complaining about me. If you do, I’ll only cut it out and pin it on my wall. My home country of England is simply bursting with pessimists; the weather’s probably a factor in that, and when traveling on the tube in the morning rush hour, I’m usually the only one looking at other people and smiling. Although, even my patience is tested with the delays and cancellations on London public transport. My last trip home saw all the Monday morning rush hour trains cancelled on my line — Simply unacceptable. I worked from home and smiled all day.

Joking aside, of course, the world since September 2008 has been a troubled place and, working as I do in the employment market, many people have suffered hugely.  I have met literally hundreds of highly qualified and experienced professionals who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves either unemployed or having to work for a while without being paid salary or bonuses. Some industries have been hit badly, investment banking, construction and real estate, some less so, for example the pharmaceutical sector, which has been reasonably resilient (should we be grateful for the swine flu?). Those of you who are reading this article and seeking employment, struggling to pay off euro-denominated loans and feeding a family, and can still keep a positive outlook on life have my absolute respect. With a positive attitude, I believe you will always land on your feet.

The global media is starting to feed us news-consumers more and more positive economic stories, Germany and France are formally out of recession, The Moscow Times’ headline recently was Recession Over (but added that we’re still in crisis, I’m not sure I completely understand that one, dear MT). The FTSE has been going like a train, the oil price is strengthening and basically the macro picture is rosier. In my business we are fortunate that we are well capitalized and learnt hard lessons from the 1998 financial default; mostly that cash is king. We didn’t see this coming, neither did some of the world’s best economists, but we recognized it when it arrived and we acted swiftly.

The serial pessimists out there were merchants of doom from the start and were generally to be found in office kitchens all over Moscow drinking endless coffees while shirking work and telling everybody who was prepared to listen that their employer was heading for disaster, they were all in a sinking ship and that they deserved better. When the rubbish was taken out in the evening they found themselves heading for the same place. Meanwhile, their colleagues were beginning to come to terms with the reality that they would have to work harder to achieve less.

As strange as it seems there are some positive results of this downturn mixed with the hardship. Those who are still gainfully employed and with a positive outlook have really set themselves apart. There have been opportunities out there; well-run businesses have taken market share from those less well-managed. Demotivated employees have found they have been replaced by better-motivated staff. If you’re still receiving a reasonable pay packet twice a month and you have a desk to come to each morning, then you are one of the lucky ones. Even more so if you also have a management team that is trying its best to navigate the stormy seas, then you are simply expected to take at least a passing interest in motivating yourselves. There are jobs out there for positive minded people prepared to look for them so if the above doesn’t describe your current employer, change jobs.

Recently one of my employees, who we shall call Irina (as her name is actually Irina), mentioned that she was considering moving into teaching, as she was finding it quite tough in our industry working in her particular niche. I pointed out that thanks to Mayor Luzhkov teachers in Moscow have much better pay and that the resulting influx of qualified staff means it’s now difficult to find a job in teaching. With absolute respect for my employee she pondered this fact, probably realized that life wasn’t that bad after all and buckled down to some hard work, for which she will be paid well and her positive attitude will mean I’m sure she’ll achieve her goals.

Now that the business world is picking itself up off of its feet, people should be buzzing with excitement at the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. It will be hard work, but it will certainly be worth it. Those who have survived this downturn should receive a campaign medal and wear it with pride. To those people — your employers are probably wondering how to reward you, and for those who are still complaining and unmotivated, be cautious, there are plenty of people out there eager to prove themselves and get back into your job.

It has not been my intention to offend. My views are my own and nobody else’s. I’m still in the minority, but more and more people are joining me. Recovery — Bring it on. Crisis, what crisis?