Process of decay

Blake Doyle
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Gratefully we have a break in the weather and legions of walkers are taking advantage of much missed warmth. With the warmer weather comes the scents of spring; the moist earth, the shoots of grass and the decay of last season’s vegetation.

Farmers till silage and plant matter back into the earth at the end of harvest. This allows the soil to retain moisture and return much-needed nutrients to foster life in the coming season. This is a regenerative process and one that is predictable, a circle of life repeating annually.

Our economy also operates in cycles. There are booms and busts, peaks and troughs, recession and recovery. Each stage requires differing stimuli through its process.

While some may argue, I think there is evidence to support that our local economy is not yet approaching the recovery stage. To reach the cycle of ‘green shoots’ or recovery, we must first suffer through the period of decay.

Typical stimuli to help us accelerate through the period of decay are not currently available. We need capital infusions from consumers, business and governments. None of these stakeholders presently have capacity to support the required investment.

Capital decay is an economic term, describing an inability to adapt to a new environment most often resulting in failure due to competitors making technological advances.

When Henry Ford introduced a more efficient assembly line production many of his competitors went out of business. Some narrowed their focus, others modeled Ford’s processes and thrived.

Planting/harvesting cycles repeat themselves with predictability. If care is not taken the balance of the cycles will be disrupted. It is far easier to maintain good cycles than try to recover from errors.

The delicate balance of our economy is similar. Stewardship is difficult but the consequences inherently encourage good maintenance.

This week our province released its annual budget. The collective attention on this plan is short, but an element of our history and future are embedded in the numbers of that document.

If, as I fear, we are in a cycle where citizens, business and governments no longer have the financial capacity to invest us out of a recession, then decay sets in for a longer period.

There is always renewal after the decomposition. Establishing where we are in our predictable cycle allows us to plan for the recovery. Plant the seeds that will foster the green shoots. Take the time, when times are difficult to adapt new processes.

While enjoying the scents of spring contemplate how we might transform present challenges. It is an opportune time to test conventional wisdom, remove inefficiencies and look forward to the harvest.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian’s small business columnist. He can be reached at

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