Q: For the last few months, my boss (who is also the owner) has become extremely focused on his financial situation. He’s talking more and more about how long this farm has been in the family and how he needs to be sure it stays that way. I know it’s tough right now; I just think that he should be spending more time out here with us.

A: As a jetliner taxis down the runway Ajust before takeoff, the flight attendants explain important safety information about seat belts, exits and so forth. There is one instruction, though, that is unique and is never fully explained.

“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Pull firmly on the air bag and the oxygen will begin to flow. If you are traveling with a small child, put on your own mask first before assisting the child.” That last part, “...put on your own mask first...” is never explained but is extremely critical.

Essentially, “You have to take care of yourself first or you won’t be able to help anyone else.”

If a businessman wants to continue to provide jobs for his employees he may have to make some very tough choices during difficult financial times. This may seem selfish to some employees. When we see owners cutting expenses, perhaps even reducing benefits and eliminating perks, we may not realize that the actions are an effort to save the entire business.

No one in this generation has seen a continuous period of losses like the one currently underway. The old rules for making sound business decisions don’t seem to apply, and the level of uncertainty and unpredictability reduces an owner’s self-confidence in making long-term plans. The survivors of this era will be the ones who constantly review their plans and previous decisions, and make the tough choices before their options are severely limited by circum- stances beyond their control.

The best thing you can do is make sure that you and your coworkers are doing everything your job requires, so your boss has all the time he needs to keep his “oxygen” flowing.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.