I’m coming off a marathon couple of weeks of travel… I’ve been to Council Bluffs, Iowa (near Omaha) for a peer group meeting and to Nashville, Tennessee for a marketing seminar. The one constant everywhere I visited was conversation about the economy. It’s the main topic on every news cast, every news paper article, and every news radio program.
Economists are calling what we’re experiencing a “precession” rather than a real recession. Activity is stalled because everyone’s scared. This isn’t to say that the economic pressures aren’t real – I talk with clients every day who are experiencing slower sales and slowed collections.
In our business, we’ve not seen a significant decline in sales so much as we’ve seen clients slowing their payments. Companies that paid regularly within our net 10 terms are now paying in 30 days. Clients who paid in 30 days are paying at 45. I think everyone is hoarding their cash because they’re scared and not sure where things are headed.
Whatever the terminology – slowdown, precession, recession, decline, etc. – that this is the perfect time to be working on our businesses to really take advantage of the situation. What do we need to do when times get a little tougher? Adapt and change! Here are a few thoughts for consideration.
Cash Is King
We need to evaluate how cash leaves and enters our company. Can we cut some outgo or speed up some inflow? We need to watch cash because he who has it will win. Cash flow is a critical thing to take care of. Watch your A/R and keep it collected. Cut back where it makes sense. Evaluate how the money flows.
In our business, technology, processes and procedures change constantly. We have to reinvent ourselves pretty regularly to survive. There is no better time than a difficult one to see what needs to be changed or improved in our companies. There are likely things that need to go, and new things that need to be added. Think carefully about your business and what should continue to be part of it.
Get Outside Your Box
Forget “But we’ve always done it that way.” Don’t let the norm be the norm – look outside your comfort zone and consider all options. You can’t allow the rut to keep you on the wrong path. Creative thinking and planning will be key to coming out of this on the other side.
Planning is always important but never more important than when times are tough. You need to make sure you have a solid plan and your team understands it. There is no money or time to waste, so your plan needs to keep everyone working toward the same goals.
Market Your Business!
We have a client, John Poniewozik from Iceberg’s One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, who has his business marketing down! His promotions are unusual and attention getting. Have you seen his penguin television ads or direct response letters? They’re really great. You might think some of our marketing is unusual, and I admit that it is.
But I think that is the key to why it works! Doing the same old boring stuff that every other business with whom you compete is doing, makes your business blend into the background. There is no differentiation – if you market like everyone else, there’s no way to tell why your business is better.
I have a friend who is a marketing consultant, and she often talks about how business owners fall into the habit of “ego based marketing.” They think “my clients are different” or “my customers would never respond to that type of marketing.” Baloney! Customers are craving something different. Use that to get their attention and get them to buy from you instead of your competition.
As business owners, I think we have a tendency toward perfection. We want everything our companies do to be 100%. I suffer from this myself, and it has been difficult for me to learn and accept that 95% is good enough 95% of the time. We get stuck sometimes in “paralysis by analysis” mode and keep “working on things” and never “getting things done.”
Execute on your planning. Execute your marketing strategies. Execute your process improvement projects. There will be time to perfect them as you go along. But when your competitors finally get around to executing their “perfect” plans – you will be that many steps ahead of the game.
Difficult times are opportunities. Many will struggle, some will fail, but for those who are ready and execute – you can leverage these times to make up ground quickly.
My advice: Don’t listen to the news. Follow your own plan and make things happen.