Up Side of a Down Turn

The news today seems to all be about the recession.  No matter where you turn; radio, television, newspapers and magazines – it all seems to be bad news.  In an effort to be positive, some focus on surviving a recession but why merely survive when you can thrive?  Sound impossible?  It’s not.

Even in the worst economic conditions, some businesses grow.  For example, starting in December 2008, the live Christmas tree industry began experiencing growth.  As more consumers elected to stay home for the holidays, they also decided to invest in a real tree.  They didn’t just get a live tree, perhaps for the first time in years; they sprung for the larger, premium trees.  The sale of wines and spirits is up.  Firms who assist with outplacement services are enjoying a boom.  The same is true for companies who provide internet meeting services, webinars and other services which allow business to meet and train without incurring travel costs. Law firms specializing in bankruptcy are also thriving.  Some of this is clearly the result of being in the right business at the right time.

But what about the rest of the business community, what about your business?  Believe it or not, these tough times are actually GOOD for your business.  This is when you gain market share. This is not just some crazy notion of one entrepreneur, the Wharton School of Business actually agrees.

There are several ways you can capitalize on this tightening of the marketplace to insure your business not only survives, but is poised for explosive growth once the markets recover – and they will recover, they always do.

One way is to continue to advertise.  This may seem counterintuitive, advertising is expensive and you are trying to cut expenses.  However, this is what your competitors will be doing and share of mind will always equal share of market.  Now, more than ever, you cannot afford to be absent from the marketplace.

Another way of course is to cut expenses.  It’s really easier than you may think.  As an entrepreneur who started with only $5,000 and no commercial loans, I understand how to do more with less.  Trust me, you can cut expenses.  Even if you already have, there is always more to cut but it’s also important to be smart about your cuts.

Keep in mind that when consumers part with their dollars during tight economic times, they expect a lot in return.  The customer experience is critical.  While it’s important to cut expenses, you cannot afford to sacrifice service or quality.

Cutting staff to the point that service suffers isn’t going to help, but perhaps you can make do with several part time employees, add an intern or let people job share.  All of those allow you to maintain your service standards while still cutting costs.

Through all of this, you are going to be asking your team to do more with less.  You are likely going to be depending on independent contractors for a host of services and you will be leaning on your suppliers to help you remain competitive.  This will require you to develop new skills on motivating people without using money, even those not directly on your payroll.  The good news here is that the basic things which motivate people are the same regardless of economic conditions and none of them are about money.

The good news is, once you get comfortable in your new, leaner business model, you can maintain it even as business returns and increases.  This puts you in a great profitability position for the future.

The changes you make now, however scary or uncomfortable, will also put you in the best possible position to take advantage of the growth potential when the recovery happens.  With a little creativity and a positive approach to the current situation, you can position your business to not only survive, but thrive. 

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