Please Don’t Tell Our Clients There’s a Recession!

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted. Happy to report that I’ve got a great excuse: been busy!

With all the doomsday scenarios that friends and pundits are putting out there–from severe recession to a prolonged worldwide depression and ensuing anarchy–it’s amazing we’ve been so busy, almost too busy to notice that we’re freezing our okoles off here in Hawaii!

With a short weekend lull in business activity, we finally found time for some mischief last Saturday. Rather than write a new post for this blog as I should have, I put on my dirty shorts and slippahs, and headed for our favorite shoreline spot on the east side of Hawaii, Richardson’s Beach in Hilo.

It was raining when we left Pahoa. Wishfully thinking it might be sunnier in Hilo, we headed up to the highway packing a lunch and our beach gear. We pulled into Richardson’s parking lot at half past noon under an overcast sky. Parking spots were available and we soon discovered why: it was as cold and windy in Hilo as my hometown Chicago in early autumn.

Cold in Hawaii?

The uninitiated non-Hawaii resident might be shocked to hear that Hawaii gets cold. Surely “Hawaii” and “cold” are mutually exclusive?

The truth is that our neck of paradise gets cold, some elevations colder than others. And yet even we are surprised at how cold it’s been the last couple weeks; we’re talking a record low of 58 degrees in Hilo on January 27th, and much colder up the mountain at higher elevations. (Mauna Kea is capped with snow as I type this.)

It helps to understand that we’re on the windward side of the Island of Hawaii. Where we live in Pahoa, it tends to be wetter and cooler than other parts of the Hawaiian Islands. But we knew that before we moved here, and actually considered it a plus. Hey, anything looks good after a long dreary Chicago winter.

But damn it, with our blood all thinned out by 3 years of living in moderate sub-tropical temperatures, we now shiver at night when the temperature drops into the sixties. Folks back in Chicago think I’m a total wimp. Truth is I was a wimp to move here in the first place. So I have no choice now but to wear my new wimpy reputation as a badge of honor.

But what really warmed my heart was the phone call I got from my younger brother Saturday evening: Chicago was covered in six inches of snow. Ha! And suddenly Hawaii weather was okay. I vowed to myself never to complain again. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen…

So What’s Up with the Rotten Economy?

The chill in the economy is the real worry. But at the risk of jinxing our good fortune allow me to count my blessings here: Mainland clients continue to feed me work, with several  gigs booked for March and May. And here’s a bit of a shock: a timeshare client here in Hawaii is booming with an amazing 90% occupancy rate; they’ve given me 4 gigs since last November in a very slow tourist economy.

But there’s more: local clients want houses built, decks constructed, landscaping done, fences installed, roofs painted, cars registered, titles transferred, lawns mowed, documents translated–plenty of work here for local businesses and ourselves.

Then came the big surprise: a local tour company approached Kurumi and me a couple weeks ago to do part-time work as tour guides. (Their business is up substantially from a year ago.) It’s the last thing we expected in terms of work.

Shhh…please don’t tell our clients that we’re in a recession!

It sure helps to have a conservative, cash-flush clientele, most of whom spent their lives squirreling away yen instead of gambling in the stock market. But it also helps to be creative in finding ways to monetize ones skills and talents. We’re always looking for opportunities to create value and have developed products over the years that helped grow our business. (Kurumi makes beautiful, custom, silver jewelry and teaches Japanese at the local charter school; I administer management and customer service seminars aimed at the Japanese market–but have no problem digging ditches and pounding nails.)

Sure wish I could claim that our good fortune was all part of a master plan. Truth is I was lucky enough to find something I loved–Japan–and pursued a career that allowed me to stay connected to it. It’s really just dumb luck that this market turned out to be so recession-resistant.

But we won’t be getting cocky about this anytime soon. We believe that the best way to deal with good fortune is to maintain a yin-yang perspective: We will never lose sight of the possibility that our blessings could all disappear tomorrow.

All the more reason to appreciate our good fortune today.

Copyright © Tim Sullivan 2009

4 responses to “Please Don’t Tell Our Clients There’s a Recession!

  1. I always told myself when I first moved to Hawaii that if I could learn and speak japanese fluently, I would have no problem surviving in Hawaii.

    Japanese 101 got me through to Arigato. Can’t remember much else besides a little words here and there that I picked up from my ex-gf.

    Glad you understand that it’s not cold in Hawaii and that you have just acclimated. I remember arriving in Hawaii in the month of December and sweating at night. 15 years later, I’m thinking about buying an electric blanket for the night time.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Glad you are back.


  3. Aloha Andy!

    So glad you checked in.

    Turns out I’m a “streaky” poster. Moving forward I’ll try not to let so much time elapse between posts.

    Gosh, I sure wish I could read your blog–but I’m just too damn old to learn French…

    Hey, how’s the economy in your neck of the woods?


  4. Hi Tim,

    Good to know you won’t let too much time pass between each posts.

    Never too old, never too late to learn

    One of my new friend told recently me his story:

    On his 40’s, managing director of a manufacturing company bored to death with his work and life, he threw everything out 10 years ago. Now on his 50’s, he is a social worker pursuing a bachelor in psychology and training with me, to do 100 Km in 30 hours for my NGO.

    Therefore, who want can.

    Here, the economy is not really good, not bad just not good, but people seems to be resilient and trying to figure out what to do with their life. As I’ve said to some friends, crisis are recurrent (see Hyman Minsky) and therefore, we just adapt and make the best of it.

    Hope everything is fine with you as well.

    Take care,

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