I’ve been lucky enough to work with/for some wonderful design and creative companies.  Luckily, in most of my experience, communication with and amongst leadership in the smaller companies has always been easy for anybody within the org.  However, I have noticed some very specific behavioral trends when times are tough.  The following points are “things to avoid” that I’ve noticed from an internal marketing and communications standpoint.

1.  A significant increase in closed door meetings
When doors are closed, people talk…and I don’t mean the people in the meeting.  Employee loyalty and confidence decrease when there is a noticeable increase in long, closed-door meetings.
2.  Falling back on the “old guard”
Companies develop management teams for a reason, and people take pride in their involvement in corporate decisions.  However, when revenue or profits dry up, it’s common for business owners/Principals to fall back on the one or two people they know and trust best.  This is a mistake for a number of reasons.  First, it isolates the rest of the team that have a vested interest in the direction of the company.  Secondly, it stifles the creativity and idea generation that a multi-disciplinary management team brings to the table.  Finally, it often puts the pressure on just the same two or three people involved over and over again, which isn’t a great model for corporate or professional growth.
3.  All projects get caught in bottlenecks
Because the same two or three people tapped for major decision-making are also usually key parts of company operations, the increased focus on management meetings creates a bottleneck in getting both billable and non-billable work out the door.  This means, marketing projects take longer or may even get held up altogether.  It also means that proposal responses slow down, project reviews and approvals slow down…and that leads to lower profit on projects because teams are sitting around waiting!  It turns into a self-fulfilling problem.
Sustaining or growing an A/E/C firm in a slow economy is difficult, but it is crucial that the team that’s involved during the good times, is involved during the bad.  Sharing the workload and increasing communications empowers and motivates a good marketing and management team.