What's the Good News in an Economic Downturn?

Dec. 1, 2008
After writing what I hoped was a catchy headline, I faced the problem of fulfilling the promise. No writer wants to win the split-second with a snappy

After writing what I hoped was a catchy headline, I faced the problem of fulfilling the promise. No writer wants to win the split-second “gotcha” with a snappy headline, then sink quickly with inadequate content.

The economic downturn has at least a few positive spins.

First, it allows writers to wax unceasingly about what went wrong, who's at fault and what to do. In short, it's journalists following the herd, and maybe in this instance, it's not so bad.

Second, it's amazing how all my “smart” friends who were making (or going to make) tons of money in the dot.com boom and then in the real estate boom are now suddenly silent.

Third, human nature being what it is, bad news (and lousy numbers) tend to shake us up and make us want to try something new. Not such a bad situation either.

For my readers, I reached out to businesspeople throughout the country and asked them to share one piece of advice that you might consider implementing in 2009 given the current dismal climate. Here's what a few said:

Check in with Your Customers: Take the needed steps to make sure that your current clients/customers are happy with your company, and regularly poll your new clients/customers to make certain that they are pleased with your services and with your firm. This is a time to “overcommunicate” and use market research (surveys, polling, in-depth interviews, etc.) services to maintain and expand your market share.
Scott R. Gingold, CEO, Powerfeedback, Blog: http://powerfeedback.tumblr.com, Web: www.powerfeedback.com

Capture Valuable Knowledge Before It's Gone: More than a quarter of the U.S. population will be at retirement age within the next three years. Younger employees tend to stay at one job for about four years. Employers are at risk for losing specialized and even proprietary information when these employees move on. Every company tends to have a key employee who knows how to finesse obsolete-but-still-in-use equipment or who built the management information system and knows all of the workarounds necessary to extract mission-critical data.

Start by analyzing and cataloging the special knowledge that individuals have. Create mentoring or cross-training programs so that employees share and duplicate this information. Encourage younger employees to obtain professional designations and additional education, and to join professional organizations and online industry groups. Build a culture that values expertise in order to persuade employees to stay with the company longer.
David M. Williams, partner, Business Enhancement Associates, http://beamemphis.spaces.live.com

Your Daily Golden Hour Brings in the Gold: In good times, almost anyone can sell; in a slow economy, relationship selling is critical. Set an hour aside or more every day to call your database. Set goals for how many calls you will make each day.

Ask the following questions:

  • What's new?
  • Plans for year-end and next year?
  • How you can help one another?

Prioritize your calls by current clientele, prospects and forgotten contacts. Those you call will appreciate it, and you will find new business.
Elinor Stutz, CEO, Smooth Sale, www.smoothsale.net, www.smoothsale.net/blog/

Add Rigor to Your Strategic Process: In tough times, organizations must add rigor to their strategic process and be more disciplined in choosing actions that support their uniqueness in the marketplace.

Tough times require more strategic tradeoffs, and as Michael Porter, the famous Harvard strategist has clearly articulated, “Strategy without tradeoffs is impossible.” I suggest that in these tough times leaders look at their core competencies and determine which of those unique strengths are best aligned with helping them achieve their business objectives. They should then examine all of the unrelated activity in their organizations and “choose” to stop doing it. They will be a more strategic operation, and they will save money as they choose to abandon nonstrategic activity. They may also find that as a result of their focus, they can layer in new activities that support their uniqueness in the marketplace, thereby deepening that uniqueness, which builds a competitive advantage.
Matt Modleski, vice president, Stovall Grainger Inc., www.sgbci.com

HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to: Tom Peric', Editor 2040 Fairfax Avenue Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 856/874-0049 or e-mail [email protected].