Navigating In A Down Economy

Originally published: 08.01.08 by Terry Tanker

Only the best-run, best-managed firms survive.

It’s a tough economy out there and just about every indicator is pointing its needle toward the red. Energy prices are high, new housing starts are low to nonexistent, finding qualified workers is difficult, healthcare coverage is expensive, subprime loans have made additional financing difficult to obtain and the list goes on and on. However, for business owners there are no excuses, the playing field is level. As the old saying goes, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

When the business climate becomes exceedingly difficult like it is today, most industries will have significant fall out. The Darwin effect applies and only the bestrun, best-managed firms survive. As a result, there’s a lot less clutter in the marketplace and there will be a great deal of opportunity for the remaining firms. Another interesting fact, recessionary times are like springboards of opportunity attracting entrepreneurs who can pull together the resources necessary to take advantage of floundering competition.

Right now even the best-managed firms will need to make adjustments and outright changes to their business operation. It’s a great time to make process changes you’ve been planning, or simply fix things you think are broken. Assuming you are and have been communicating effectively with all of your team members, there should be significantly less resistance to the changes you implement.

Despite the economy, customers will always need service and they’ll always need to repair or replace equipment. As competitors fall out of the market, several positive things happen for those that remain. First, there is even more business for the stronger surviving (and thriving) firms. Second, service technicians, operations managers, sales people and office staff that have recently become displaced by the economic shakedown are available to help fill existing positions within your organization as well as the new and expanding business opportunities competitors have left at your door. Take your time, interview and evaluate these prospective employees and ask only the best to join your team.

Another unique thing happens — customers become better listeners. When dollars are tight, making mistakes on where to invest them simply hurts more. The investment your marketing and sales teams have made developing presentations on higher-efficiency equipment and payback rates based on energy levels versus repairing their existing equipment are given their due consideration.

I mentioned earlier that effective communication within your entire company is essential. In doing so you’ll eliminate most of the water cooler discussions that are responsible for spreading doubts, fears and untruths. Instead, you can educate your team on the most critical and important tasks, showing them areas that need focus and commitment. From there you’ll be able to establish goals and objectives accordingly.

There is plenty of research that documents how well-managed and well-run companies gain market share and dominate during recessionary times. The bottom line — managers at those companies had a plan, executed the plan and didn’t make excuses.

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