Whether you believe the country is in a recession or just a slow down doesn’t matter, what is important is how you chose to handle the economic changes with regards to your business. Now is not the time to make dramatic changes, but integrating minor adjustments in your operations, processes, and practices will produce profitable results.
Stay focused on your core business, skills, and expertise. Generally speaking, a slowdown is not the time to add new services, new products, or other large capital expenditures unless you have very specific strategic initiatives already pre-approved and planned. Concentrate your efforts on enhancing your current product and service offerings. Look for ways to add value to your customer’s business by soliciting their input on your current offerings. Ask how you can improve your delivery time, your quality, and your customer service. Take advantage of opportunities to converse with your customers, and seek opportunities to provide value – added services.
Enhance your communication programs with your employees. Keeping everyone in the loop and informed will help keep productivity and morale high and turnover down. People tend to panic if they perceive that a lay-off is pending and might leave your company unexpectedly. During a slow down is not the time to replace staff, if you don’t have to. By enhancing your communications with your employees, you can generate new ideas, focus on “back burner projects,” streamline processes and procedures, and raise morale.
Control costs and expenditures. When the economy slows, companies tend to make dramatic cuts in their operating budgets, when small adjustments are needed and more profitable. Encourage employees to be conscientious of their spending, use conference calls and webinars to reduce travel, look for ways to “bundle” services, and minimize waste. Asking every employee “to do their part” will create a teamwork environment, and help control costs and reduce layoffs.
Stay Positive. The forecasters are predicating this slow-down to be short-lived (6-8 months), so keep focused on your growth plans and actively create plans for how to handle the turnaround when it arrives. Thoughts and feelings are contagious, the more positive and upbeat you are, the more encouraged your employees and your customers will be.
Be Strategic. Actively seek out opportunities to repackage your product or service, or phase your work program over a period of several months, rather than crunching it into a restricted time frame. When business is booming, most company executives are so focused on meeting the demand, they have little time or resources for improving their operations. When sales are slow, it becomes an ideal opportunity to review and make changes to your processes and improvements.
Capitalize on Opportunities. When business is booming, it can be challenging to add new processes, practices or conduct training sessions. When people are stressed, changing their work flow can have negative consequences, however when work has slowed down it can be an ideal time to strengthen skills, improve work flows, change policies and procedures. Embrace the slower work pace as an ideal opportunity to make needed improvements in your organization.
Consult with Experts. Working with people who are experts in their field is a great way to get ideas and input on initiatives you want to consider. For example, seeking the advice of an outside accountant, lawyer or consultant, might yield new ideas for changes that you might consider. Stay current on news and activities in your industry as well as new management/leadership techniques, as a slow down is a great time to make internal changes.
Be Creative. Talk with your employees, customers and vendors to seek opportunities to make changes. You may have employees who would like to take some additional time off- with out pay, you might have a customer who would like to change your working relationship, you might have vendors who would consider a different purchasing plan. When business has slowed down, there are a myriad of opportunities to seek out creative and unique solutions to entrenched systems.
Lead by example. Your employees, customers and vendors are all relying on you to keep the strategic direction of the company aligned and focused. By making improvements that will yield positive, profitable changes to your organization, your company will be in a better position to meet your customer’s demands when the economy improves.
Every business owner or leader knows that cycles are a critical part of the process for everyone. By taking advantage of adjustments in the business cycle, you can strategically open doors for new opportunities, implement improvements to the internal structure, and develop more profitable business strategies. Don’t panic, stay focused, and continually seek out opportunities to strengthen your organization, and when economy turns the corner, your organization will be positioned to succeed!