In Times of Peace, Prepare for War

By: Bethany Tesché, Director of Marketing & Client Relations, Houck Group, Inc.

I have heard this quote by Roman General Vegetius uttered often by the President of our company – especially during our annual strategic planning sessions and in our departmental sales meetings. Simply interpreted, the original quote means that the time to prepare for war is not when war is imminent but rather when times are peaceful. It was true in the time of Plublius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (say that five times fast!), and it’s certainly true for us now as we have stepped across the threshold of another election year.

From the business development side of things, I realize the importance of this truth. We’ve all been blessed with a great industry boom, but this not-so-young professional remembers the lean times, the times when everyone in the office was wondering when “the next shoe would drop.” Which one of us would be let go? As the Marketing Coordinator at the time, with pretty much all marketing and promotion budgets frozen, I was pretty sure I would be one of casualties of the slow construction industry and recessed economy. My position at that time – especially as seen from the perspective of the field employees – might easily have been considered “useless overhead.”

As everyone in the company waited (with bated breath) for news from the higher-ups of extreme layoffs and dramatic cuts, we continued to do our jobs – but with a certain degree of frenzied hunger for generating business and performing such successfully, safely and profitably. To our great surprise, the big cuts didn’t happen. For our company at least, there were no massive layoffs or shutdowns. Sure, it was a very uncomfortable time; but at least from my perspective then, the only really noticeable actions were that of closing a satellite office and warehouse location, relocating that staff to our headquarters and instituting a fairly strict spending freeze – no bonuses, no additions to the fleet, no more trendy company apparel or big marketing expenses.

This is just an observation from my perspective at the time. I’m sure there was a plethora of other discussions, considerations, cuts and tough decisions that I wasn’t privy to. Unfortunately, other companies didn’t fare as well. Many experienced dramatic layoffs, downsizing and painful cuts.

Nowadays, when asked the mundane, close-ended networking question: “How are things?” – we all raise our eyebrows, shake our heads and simply state: “Things are busy.” But back then (yes, I said it), everyone just muttered,“Things are tough,” and then tried to end the statement with some weak, but hopeful prediction of how things would turn around.

And turn around they did. But we can never forget what that time felt like. We must continue to live in the lessons it taught us and prepare for such a time again. We need to stay hungry and motivated. This time of peace is certainly no time for complacency. We need to prepare for war.

March 5, 2020