Beacons of light Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009

Inevitably, every conversation I’ve had with business leaders over the past few months has turned to the economy and how organizations are coping.

While each person has his or her unique take on the situation, as do I, a number of recent national surveys have put an exclamation point on what makes all of this so unsettling.

First, low demand for products and services continues to run rampant across multiple business sectors. This has created major barriers for both growth and survival.

Second, reduced access to credit has made cash flow an immediate concern. Even for those people who do have access, they’re reporting restricted financing options, tighter lending restrictions, stalled mergers and acquisitions activity, and a higher cost of borrowing. In short, things still aren’t good for many organizations that are on solid footing.

Despite these negative trends, panic isn’t an answer. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you’re concerned about how to keep your operations afloat and your next payroll covered.

Recessions are cyclical, albeit this one has hit more sectors than other recent ones, and things will eventually turn around. When we finally do look back at this period, we’ll be able to say that entrepreneurs and their innovations led the way toward recovery.

That’s why I’m excited about this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. It’s an opportunity to set negative news aside and focus on the positives.

Sure, the entrepreneurs that make up the finalists and category winners face the same struggles as their peers, but they have spent their careers facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and overcoming them.

Entrepreneurs are a driven breed. They demonstrate a completely committed belief in their ideas and have the perseverance to follow through no matter how many people say it can’t be done.

That ability provides the rock-solid foundation needed during tough times, when it’s imperative for an organization’s leader to remain calm and keep everyone focused. Only when you’re in control can you bring people together to develop ways to succeed.

As you read about this year’s honorees, let them serve as reminders of just what it requires to survive difficult times and come out on top.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at