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Be smart about mergers and acquisitions.

It seems obvious that a recession is a great time to buy assets cheap. The wonder is that so few companies do it. Merger activity tends to peak when markets are at their height, while most companies see a recession as a time to hoard resources until things improve. Companies are twice as likely to acquire businesses in their major segments during an upturn as they are during a downturn, the opposite of what makes sense.

Of course if you're strapped, you can't follow Warren Buffett's dictum to be greedy when others are fearful. But if you're financially strong, this is your moment. McKesson's Hammergren says, "This is a great opportunity to pick up small companies and their talent," for which he is scouting avidly.

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Last updated January 08 2009: 9:17 AM ET
There's no script for running a company in this historic downturn. So what the heck do you do? More

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