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Contraction

Let me preface this by stating that this is MY view, not based in any type of research method other than a non-rigorous “auto-ethnography” (possible future blog topic).


Last evening, on my high school graduating class’s Zoom call, I mentioned that Putin’s war on Ukraine was going to crater the financial markets, if he isn’t checked. One of my classmates asked, “But won’t ramping up the war machine be good for the economy?” I was a little stunned by the question, but I said, “Not in my experience.” Every time the U.S. has been touched by military conflict, my business has contracted.


I started my first technical writing business in 1987. I was going gangbusters with multiple employees when Desert Storm happened. We went from being a $500,000 per year company in 1990 to only grossing $100,000 in 1991.


My team and I worked hard over the next couple of years—including 1995, when I was battling breast cancer. We had another $500,000 year. However, also in 1995, President Clinton initiated a NATO response to the Bosnian war. My company tanked in 1996.


Once again, we built it back up. Dot-com businesses were all the rage and they needed documentation. The world was terrified of the transition into the year 2000, and companies realized their systems were not documented. We had plenty of work with corporations in every sector. My company grew to 25 people. We grossed about $2M per year for 3 years.


Then, in 2000-2001, the perfect storm hit: the dot-com world imploded; technical writing in all sectors was outsourced to India; and, on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was attacked. None of these events were within our control. When the U.S. entered into a war with Afghanistan, my company completely imploded. We had to lay off 25 people in eight months. We had no revenue for two years. Our phone didn’t ring once in that time. My business partner and I lost everything we had created and nurtured when we closed the business in 2003 as President George W. Bush was invading Iraq.


The last implosion in 2009-2010, which just about took me out, not only financially, but physically and mentally, was a result of the many years of Bush administration policies that focused on a prolonged war in Afghanistan.


When war happens, the business world goes into bunker mode conserving cash. They get rid of what they perceive as excess expense (even if that cash is paying for knowledge they need and have already invested in). While documentation is critical to efficient information technology development and support, it is often perceived as a necessary evil.


When in bunker mode, upper management, who often do not come from a systems background, think that system developers can write their own documentation, not realizing that technical communication requires its own set of skills (that developers don’t have) and has a professional body of knowledge that technical writers and knowledge architects use.

Technical communication requires its own set of skills (that developers don’t have) and has a professional body of knowledge that technical writers and knowledge architects use

War is once again on our doorstep. Companies are already contracting into bunker mode. The next few months are going to be interesting and terrifying (I fear) to watch.


What is the message I’m trying to convey? None, really, other than, “I’ve been here before. War sucks!”

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