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Like Lehman Brothers, Show Grit Under Fire

Another day, another investment bank in trouble.

Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about Lehman Brothers (LEH), whose stock plunged amid rumors of major trouble at the investment bank.

While your company may never be the focus of heated commentary on CNBC and the financial blogs (insert sigh of gratitude here), Lehman's troubles offer a lesson to any business facing tough times.

When you're under attack, fight back by taking swift, decisive action. Staying vague and downplaying rumors of weakness will only bring on more scrutiny.

In the case of Lehman Brothers, the trouble began as yet more fallout from the subprime mortgage mess that has ensnared countless other banks. With Lehman's announcement that it needed to raise $6 billion in new capital earlier this month, along with its quarterly loss, analysts have been wondering if it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Almost immediately, comparisons were made to Bear Stearns , which collapsed seemingly overnight back in March.

Lehman may yet go out of business or put itself up for sale. But so far, it's weathering the crisis better than Bear did. How? By targeting specific problems and tackling them openly.

"They've taken aggressive steps to stabilize their balance sheet," says Ladenburg Thalmann analyst Richard Bove. "The measures taken were significant enough for the company to withstand whatever the stock market throws at it."

There's no question that Lehman Brothers made mistakes that landed it in its current tight spot; most of the quarterly losses were related to residential mortgages that went bad. But it also made some smart moves that may have saved the company, including liquefying assets, reducing the balance sheet and bringing in more equity.
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