Tough times = opportunity for tough people

            Tough times certainly breed tough people. More importantly, tough times always represent opportunity for those who are willing to out-work, out-innovate and out-serve their competition. There is no doubt that the last couple of years have been difficult for business owners. As a payroll company we get both narrow (industry specific) and very broad (general economic) snapshots of what is happening in businesses in our region at any given time. We have seen a lot of businesses fail, especially in late ’08 and early ’09. Since then we have watched the stronger businesses become more efficient, more careful and more innovative.

            Our local economy is now growing slowly and those who have survived now have an opportunity for a larger market share. Here is how it works. If you think of the economy as a “Pie;” this pie represents the total available dollars that will be spent during a given time period for your industry. As a business owner, you have a portion of that pie that is “yours” — you dominate a certain percentage or “slice” of that pie. As the economy gets tougher imagine that the pie shrinks from a 12” pie to a 9” pie. What this means is that you have a smaller piece of a smaller pie.  In this tougher economy some of your competitors will go out of business and their slice will become “available” – this equals opportunity if you are prepared. There is an old saying: “Opportunity favors the prepared mind.” Those business that you see growing are not doing so accidently, they are doing specific things to succeed. Here are a few to think about.

            Work “on” your business, not “in” your business as much as possible. As a business owner you must be the strategic planner for your enterprise. If you are stuck “turning the wrenches” of everyday operations you are limited to the power of your own two hands and mind. What must be done is to leverage the work of others and spend your time on innovation and direction. You as the owner must figure out how to become more efficient – more dynamic – more creative. You must extricate yourself from working “in” and work “on” the future of the business. Outsource what you can and get things off your plate you are not expert in. Concentrate your efforts on the things that make you most profitable.

            Advertise. You must advance your “name;” your brand must be more recognized today than it was yesterday. Think of new ways to get your name out  – the web, social networks, door-to-door flyers. Be creative and be persistent. Some theories say that you have to get your name in front of a prospect seven times before they will buy. You must aggressively go after the pieces of the pie that are “left on the table” by those who are out of business or who are just scared and have withdrawn from the playing field. 

            Watch your language! Be very aware of what you say and who you spend time with. I will not spend time with those who have bad attitudes. I don’t have time for it and I don’t want to get sucked down by their negative influences. I purposely surround myself with positive people who are looking for the next opportunity. I have left meetings where all the talk is in the “woe is me” category  – I just don’t have time for it.

            Your customers are your best resource for growth. Do a “quality survey” of all you clients. It will give you an opportunity to get face to face, or at least talk on the phone with them. If there are any problems, you will have an opportunity to address and correct them. Lastly, your customers are the best source of referrals that you have. They like you and they know you. Ask them for referrals.  They will most likely help you grow. Listen to them; they will make you a better business. 

            “A larger piece of a larger pie” is what you really want. Go after a larger percentage of the smaller pie now. It is easier now while others are struggling and acting in fear. Out of fear, some competitors will simply leave their slice on the table for you to collect. It is the percentage of the pie that will position you for future growth. Picture the pie. As the market grows, the “fat end” of the slice is out there waiting. If you work on growing your percentage of the pie now, when the market grows you will begin to occupy the “fat end” of your slice.  Now is your time, we are living in a time of opportunity. Go for it!