Opportunity from Challenges!

The news these days is not very positive. The economy is bad and sounds like it will be for a long time; people are being laid off from long-time jobs in record numbers; on and on and on … . But could this be the opportune time for you to re-invent your business? Or at least look closely at how you are doing business?

Maybe you’ve been like many people and continued on the path of least resistance the last few years. All of a sudden you look at your books (and get them to the tax person!) and see that the numbers aren’t as profitable as you thought.

Recently I watched an interview with a gentleman, Doug Lantz, who was laid off from his job in the RV Capital of the World, Elkhart IN. He and several others in the same predicament had started their own “new” business – Evergreen RV Company – building RVs that are environmentally friendly.

What are some steps you can take to “revamp” your product or service and make it more appealing to perhaps a different target market?

  • Listen to your customers. What are they saying about your product/service? What more do they want? Are you responding to their needs and desires? What can you “add” of value to your product or service? What are your competitors providing that you are not? At this point you don’t want to risk losing customers for reasons you can prevent!
  • Keep in regular contact. Maintain contact with your customers through regular emails or postcards/coupons offering them special “loyalty” discounts or gifts.
  • Create a positive experience. Especially if you are in retail, make sure your store is appealing, clean and well-lit so customers can see your merchandise in the best possible light.
  • Keep a close watch on the Cash Flow. Have you prepared a 12-month cash flow projection based on a worst-case scenario? How does it look? Where can you trim expenses and increase income? Keep your credit rating high. Curb excessive spending so you don’t incur late fees and overdraft penalties. Any discretionary items you can eliminate? Using the internet may save money on travel, training and operations costs. Have you tried “Go to Meeting,” Webinars, CrossLoop (software for screen sharing), etc. to keep in touch with customers, suppliers and colleagues?
  • Review your Accounts Receivable. Make sure payments are received in a timely manner. Maybe there are some customers you no longer need. Have you reviewed agreements with Suppliers? Can you make some changes in payment terms, i.e. net 45 instead of net 30?
  • Maintain current relationships and develop new ones. Networking is one of the least expensive and most profitable marketing strategies available. Be involved in your community: join Civic Organizations, the local Chamber of Commerce, sponsor youth activities and events to the extent you can, etc. People buy from those they know, like and trust! What are you doing to develop those relationships?

Our nation was built on the entrepreneurial spirit, and that is what will bring us out of these tough economic times! We have those values instilled in us – let’s build on them!

Adapted from various sources, including a Kiplinger Business Resource Center article by Carl R. George, American Institute of Certified Public Accoun¬tants; and article authored by Karen E. Klein, Los Angeles based writer on entrepreneurship and small-business issues. For more information, contact Monica Braun, monicab@cfra.org, 402.643.2673.