March 2020 Update: Ok, we’re in the thick of the Covid-19 situation. Maybe that’s why this blog started to pop in search back in December 2019? It was written ten years ago. Here are five observations on delivering a successful hard times speech. They are based on watching various high impact, difficult speeches on TV over the past few weeks:

  1. it’s about your people, not you
  2. be honest, tell the truth
  3. be empathetic, understanding, patient
  4. have a plan; not having a plan is more upsetting than bad news
  5. repeat key messages

December 2019 Update: This Hard Times Speech blog was originally written and posted in 2009. For the past ten years we had forgotten about it. Now, in December 2019 it has been in the top 10 for content on our website almost every day (there’s also an xmas party speech which goes to #1 every year). We’d be interested in understanding why this blog is suddenly popular. Is there something bad happening out there? Or is Google pointing you here by mistake? Leave a comment?

The Original Hard Times Speech Blog

You know, it’s been really interesting.

Ever since I posted the Christmas Party speech here in December, a large percentage of referrals from Google to this blog have been looking for CEO speeches of various types. Amongst the speeches being searched for are ‘bad times speech’, ‘hard times speech’, ‘difficult speech to give’.

I want to help. Here’s my shot at the speech these CEO’s might be looking for:

Hello everyone. Thank you for taking the time to get together today.

I’m not going to waste your time or mince words. The reason for getting together is to bring you up to speed on the company’s status. Unfortunately, it’s not as good as we all would have anticipated even 6 short months ago.

There are several issues.

First, our sales have slowed dramatically. As you know, we count on other manufacturers for approximately 60% of our business. All of them have consumer and wholesale businesses. With consumers limiting their spending thanks to the recession we’re experiencing, we’ve seen demand for our products decline almost 40% since the last quarter.

Second, we are seeing a serious slow-down in payments from customers. In fact, our average number of days outstanding – the average amount of time it’s taking to receive customer payments, has increased by 50%.

This combination of reduced sales and slower payments is beginning to put a strain on our business. What it means is that we cannot be complacent. We must adapt in order to remain a strong, viable manufacturer.

Effective today, we are announcing a series of strong and innovative actions. These actions are designed to accomplish two key goals. First, they ensure our company is able to withstand current challenges in our market place. Second, they prepare us to take advantage of the significant opportunities that we see arising as weaker, less well prepared competitors stumble. When conditions improve, we will emerge even stronger in the market place.

The actions we are taking today include:

As CEO, it is my responsibility to ensure that this company prospers – both in good times and hard times. By achieving success, all of our stakeholders benefit. No group of stakeholders is more important than our employees.

Over the next few months, all of us will feel the impact of the actions being taken today. However, you have my word that we will never stray from the core values of fairness, honesty and compassion that have driven our business for the past fifty years. If any of you has a concern, my door is open. You need to come and speak to me.

While it is very difficult to predict when these unique and difficult business conditions will pass, our vision remains intact. This is an incredibly talented and committed team that I am honored to lead. Working together, we will emerge stronger and more successful than ever before.

Thank you. Are there any questions?