The Upside: What Recession? Solutions for the New Economy

"I don't use the word recession," says gallery owner and art consultant Heidi McBride. "Any time I think about financial challenges I say 'I'm dealing with the new economy.' "

I couldn't agree more. For two years now the prognosticators have been like unrepentant drunks, promising us that we've hit bottom and that this time it really is going to get better.

Don't believe them. In the aftermath of a bull market all that's left is B.S.

But even though I'm one of the U.S.'s many underemployed, I'm not depressed. That's because I've already gone through denial, anger, and bargaining, and have finally moved on to acceptance.

The key is flexibility. Which is why, in addition to seeking work in other media (why else would the guy who can't balance his checkbook write for a finance site?), I've begun doing Recession Yoga. In just a few weeks I've mastered Downsizing Dog, Can't Afford Childcare Pose, and Bikram Meltdown. Supplemented, of course, with Head Tilting Tequila and Falling Down Drunk.

It doesn't earn me any money, but it's done wonders for my ass.

Others have chosen to stretch their businesses in new directions. Like Karen Kane, a travel consultant and owner of Paris by Design. When business began to falter last fall, did she pull out her hair, gnash her teeth and shake her fist at the gods? Probably. But she also adapted. Instead of focusing on once-in-a-lifetime excursions to the French capital for high-end clients, she zeroed in on affordable travel to "the next best thing to being in Paris--and at half the price."

Introducing Montreal by Design. Kane even went one step further by creating downloadable self-guided tours for only $14.95, including Cheap Eats Montreal, Montreal for Francophones and Montreal for Chocolate Lovers. I'm there as soon as she comes up with Montreal for People Who Forgot Their High School French.

If you've already downsized as much as you can, what about upsizing? A friend who owns a creative firm got really creative when he proposed teaming up with his competitors. That's right, his competitors. Now three regional firms will share staff, projects and overhead, allowing them to maximize profitability by pursuing larger jobs internationally. Oh, and saving their businesses from going under.

Lean times caused the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival to trim some of the fat out of its budget, but it's still trying to make some gravy. The festival has experimented with "dynamic pricing," charging a premium for shows that are selling out. "We've been doing dynamic pricing on the downside for years with discounts and two-for-ones," says festival executive director Paul Nicholson. But by adding just $4-5 per ticket for their most popular shows last season, the festival gained an additional $133,000.

OSF is also expanding the use of its current resources by developing "synergistic venture projects" with other theaters, whether it's jobbing out their costume department or marketing the software program they've developed for their state-of-the-art lighting system.

The name of this new LLC is OSF Solutions, an apt moniker because this new revenue source provides solutions for other companies as well as its own. Which is just one way to survive in the New Economy.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.
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