Anyone who has been running a jewelry company for more than five years has ridden the financial roller coaster—up and down, good times and bad.

Many years ago, when I owned a large jewelry manufacturer, we faced hard times too, arguably as challenging as the financial storm of today; i.e., 15 percent interest rates, 13 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment. The so-called Jimmy Carter "misery index" (unemployment plus inflation) exceeded 20 percent for the first time since World War II. The country was in an economic disaster. An army of jewelry companies, including entire sales channels, were forced to close their doors, mine included.

Looking back, there are hundreds (er, thousands) of lessons that I learned from that economic debacle. One (out of many) leadership ideas is worth passing on.

Don't become a Lone Ranger. I wanted to "grab the bull by the horns" during tough times, but that was a big mistake. Research has shown that groups make better decisions than individuals. So, during economic downturns when you're trying to tighten control, resist the urge to cut out meetings.

Instead, be honest with your employees. Encourage idea exchange and build the strong relationships needed to weather the crisis. Tap into your organization's collective wisdom. Bring in your team: In other words, don't grab the ball, pass it.

In a few days, I'll write about some other leadership lessons I've learned from those days. I hope you'll attach some of your ideas to this blog. We could all learn from each other's experiences.

Jan Brassem is a founder of Eclipse Global Consulting LLC, a firm that assists jewelry retailers who are expanding into foreign markets and/or sourcing globally. You can e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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