For businesses, downturns provide a genuine opportunity to restructure and a chance to revisit your own values, according to business guru Tom Peters, who will host a day-long seminar in Hong Kong on May 20. 'You can work with the six or 66,000 people in your enterprise so that this becomes a chance to make a useful development experience,' Mr Peters said. Extreme times also demand exceptional leaders, rather as nations at war require leaders with radically different skills. 'The most effective leaders in peacetime are often the least effective in wartime,' he said. But, rather than arm for battle, Mr Peters said that today's leaders needed basic human decency and thoughtfulness. A global economic downturn is a time when many people go through a great deal of pain. 'Difficult decisions have to be made, which may not infrequently involve letting people go,' Mr Peters said 'On the other hand, there is a humane and graceful and thoughtful way to do everything. As odd as it may sound, this is very near the top of my list,' he said. Secondly, leaders should nurture the people who are part of their life via the good, old-fashioned way of staying in touch. Networking is more important than ever. 'I'm on the phone all the time, calling the people I work with, when what I am really trying to do is tell them I'm still alive,' he said. But for some, this could turn out to be a case of too little, too late. Leaders might find that they are only as good in tough times as the investment they made in less tough times. Business leaders with staying power have to acknowledge that, although cuts must be made, some cuts should not. Research and development, training and, to some extent, marketing are all budgets that should not be shorn. 'When sales are down, you still have 75 per cent of your customers,' Mr Peters said.' So how do you behave relative to those 75 per cent, to retain or perhaps even grow your business with them?' Leaders are also advised that they only need a handful of truly multinational managers. Despite the new global village, the reality was that 99.9 per cent of life is local, he said. 'Most of us work morning to night ... in a very local [environment].' Finally, people development is at the heart of any successful business. Regardless of location, superb enterprises have superior people practices - meaning that labour forces should not be seen as expendable sets of human beings. 'China has an enormous labour force, but the superb enterprise long term ... will have the same superior people practises that we find in Japan, Germany, the United States or [Britain],' Mr Peters said. Human potential and individual growth should be at the heart of any business. 'Hong Kong is the classic case in point ... a very small enterprise with a very enormous impact, where people development is at the centre,' he said.