Undoubtedly the economy is the big story as the year comes to a close. The article I’ve read recently on the BBC mobile application came complete with the sub-headline that warned readers you needed to look as far back as 2006 to find Western policymakers in a positive mood.

That’s not unusual considering the near collapse of our financial markets. By all accounts an age of austerity is here and 2009 marked the first drop in world annual output since the 1930s depression. Consider these other factors as well.

  • China’s big trade surplus and fixed currency system don’t appear amicable to reform.
  • Americans are still spending cash they don’t have.
  • Much of Europe is near the abyss with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) providing emergency loans to Greece and Ireland.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was recently quoted as saying that if the Euro fails Europe will follow suit.

The desperate situation is mirrored in North America and a recent report from WikiLeaks claims five gigabytes of documents passed to them from one of the Bank of America’s executives spells trouble. The unsettling news increases with another report from the UK in The Telegraph claiming America is actually getting ready for another financial crisis by keeping interest rates low.

It all sounds bad, doesn’t it? Even beyond your control.

It’s not. Here are a few reasons why it is fixable and what you can do to help.

Prudent Canadians

First we need to be grateful about who we are. It seems Canadians are some of the most prudent money managers on the planet. We don’t like taking chances with our money and the banks we invest our funds in and that’s beginning to pay off.

Consider these facts:

  • The Toronto-Dominion (TD) Bank is making a move to buy Chrysler Financial for 6.3 billion dollars and positioning itself to tap into the massive American automotive lending market. That trend means, in part, that foreign investment is paying close attention to what we have to offer and that translates into more investment and more jobs to replace the ones we’ve lost.
  • There were employment gains in health care and social assistance totaling 28,000 in those areas. As well, Canada’s unemployment rate dropped to a two-year low in November.

There are other reasons why the current economic situation can be seen as a positive challenge as well. When times get tough the tough get going and business types are already seeing the possibilities in reforming the new business model for success in the post recession world.

Experts agree that new business needs to return to the basics beginning with strategy. Each firm needs to go back and look at what their competitive advantage is and focus on that. Gone are the days of fixating on quick money at the expense of quality. Now is also the time to acknowledge another business fundamental from bygone years and concentrate on the people that are hired or contracted because their quality will help determine future business success.

New Business Model

The new model will also be about the shared responsibility of risk management and learning how it needs to be spread over the entire network including suppliers so the overall chain continues to function. The implications to the the SMB space (Small to Medium Businesses) will also be tremendous. Small Business owners will have to learn how to choose their partners wisely, based on what their operations really need, not based on what they personally like. It seems to me that unless we become extremely efficient and effective we will not be able to compete any more in any active business arenas.

Of course there are other things that dominate the world stage like global warming, but it seems our leaders want to get the world’s economies moving forward again before they go in and tackle any new climate change issues.

Many call any stalling on climate change issues to jumpstart economic foundations a bad idea. There are even those like Tim Parks who writes for the guardian.co.uk who feels that although the UK – in its present economic state – is in no position to make a contribution to a decline in global warming, the alternative is surely a decline into war.

Once again, at least some of the answers begin with a proactive attitude. We have more power than we might imagine and all we really need is the right information to at least do our parts while we wait for the bigger picture to get sorted out. Here are a few practical things you can do as a consumer.

Shopping right at the store adds to your carbon footprint in its own special way, but there are some things you can do to lighten that load. It’s a good idea to avoid taking any long drives for shopping just one or two items. Taking short drives, with many stop-and-go’s is even worse. It’s suggested you make a list and wait until you’ve got enough stored up to make one trip in the car.

Organize pooling for shopping and have fun too with your neighbors shopping at the same site at the same time.

Embrace online shopping with even greater enthusiasm this year. If online merchants choose their systems wisely, online shopping can be safer than shopping at the store. With many online incentives available it is surely cheaper.

There’s no question the world is facing some monumental challenges in 2011, but that doesn’t mean they need to be overwhelming. If we all do our part and pull together, there’s really nothing we can’t overcome.

As we are getting ready to welcome the New Year, remember there’s always a silver lining. That’s if we look for it.

Happy New Year,

Al Poullis, CEO
COMMbits Inc.
Toronto, ON, Canada

With special thanks to Rob Starr, COMMbits copyrighter, for his research and content contribution.