Friday, March 6, 2009

Time for a New Attitude

It's a new month. Times are as tough as ever, and in some measures, such as today's jobs report, getting tougher. But enough! It's time to take on a new attitude.

Here is just the attitude worth emulating. It's one that Tom Robertson (pictured), dean of the Wharton School, expressed as he opened the proceedings for the 5th Annual Wharton Restructuring and Turnaround Conference, held a week ago.

Taking the dais to welcome a huge crowd squeezed to the gills in the Lincoln Ballroom of Philadelphia's Union League Club — a crowd said to be the largest outside group ever hosted at the club in its 147-year history — he set a constructive tone:

"We're beyond saying, 'Things are bad.' It's time to say, 'How do we take advantage of the situation? ... How do we come out of the backside of this stronger than we went into it.' "

Right on! The shells are still flying, and one may yet land in your lap. But I'm in the dean's camp, and I know many corporate leaders are, too. It's time to rise up out of the bunkers and start mounting a forward-moving assault on your competitive marketplace.

Dean Robertson can count on one prominent business executive who studied at Wharton to buy into this new attitude thinking. Steve Wynn, the casino company mogul, expressed this "I will survive" attitude, albeit a bit more colorfully than the dean's measured tone, in an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Tamara Audi: "Are we all supposed to go buca buca buca and fall dead on the floor? Or are we supposed to have the ability to survive and do well? ... The hell with Wall Street. I'll be here after this is over."

Just so. And here is a thought: For those who read tea leaves, the fact that this restructuring conference drew such a record-busting crowd might signal some kind of a top — or is it bottom? — in today's troubled times.