It's in the newspapers and trade journals every day — sales are down, markets are bad. Everyone is talking about how right-sizing is important to the survival of businesses all across the nation. But should austerity programs include eliminating education, training, and mentoring from your budgets?

Trimming budgets is a necessary evil when the economy heads south. But like everything in life, balance is essential. Reducing tangible assets such as hardware and software purchases, finding ways to operate your company more efficiently, creating new ways to sell services, and adding new services to extend your portfolio, are all tried and true methods for right-sizing budgets.

In his blog, “Cutting Training in a Down Economy is not a Smart Move” , Justin Beller, performance improvement specialist and instructional designer, writes, “If you're thinking of cutting back on your training budget just to save money and ride out our current economic storm, you're actually doing more harm than good to your organization's bottom line.

“In fact, shifting funding or resources, or increasing support for your training function and adapting to the way you create and deliver training, may save you more money in the long-term and create a sustainable business that can weather any negative economic condition.”

In other words, even in a business cycle like the one we're in today, it's vital to maintain or even increase the training you provide your people.

Bellar, who for eight years has applied his professional specialty to such commpanies as Norco, Albertsons, and Hewlett-Packard, says he believes in continuous improvement and blogs on topics from expanding the use of e-learning in your company to what education and training really means to business owners.

Education takes on many forms — from trade schools and colleges to on-the-job training, from mentoring programs to association-, distributor-, and manufacturing-based classes; and from the trade press and consultants to the Internet. Education and training is key to the success of any HVAC contracting firm.

You've heard this before, but it's worth repeating: People are the greatest asset you have. They make up your front line. They're the faces your customers see. They're the difference between success and failure for your company. And that's why they need to be the very best at what they do because then, they can help keep your company on the cutting edge.

As Beller puts it, “If you value your employees and trust they'll be the ones who can help keep your organization afloat and successful during these tough economic times (by maintaining or increasing your training budget), you're already further ahead than most organizations who have decided to take a different path.”

So what say you? In this time of cutbacks, are you cutting your training budgets? Inquiring minds want to know.