Monday, February 09, 2009

Thriving in a Recession Part 1

By Mark Ellwood

Part 1

As a fellow entrepreneur, you are probably wrestling with the challenges of the current business climate. Your customers have postponed projects. Your hot leads are less plentiful. Your bank account is strained.

You are not alone. But what differentiates you from others is your ability to make smart choices, prudent decisions, and cost effective initiatives. Some of my colleagues and I have shared a few ideas on how to thrive during a recession. So I thought I would pass on some simple ideas on how to succeed.


When business wanes, it is tempting to try something else, to introduce a new service or offering that is markedly different from your core business. But consider this. Would it really be any easier to convince someone to purchase your new product or service than it is to convince them to buy what you already offer? Probably not. You have a strong reputation; you have a unique offering that is valuable to your customers. You have spent years perfecting your business model. So stay on course. You provide great value – you just have to be patient while your prospects come around to realizing the same thing. If your customers are planning to go bankrupt, then drop them. But most aren’t. Most plan to grow sometime soon. Then be there for them when they do.


Time study research we have done on entrepreneurs shows they spend nine hours per week on forward-thinking activities such as market research, new product development, marketing planning, and team coordination. Also included in this is time spent each day planning their schedule, updating appointments, and figuring out whom to call. Invest the time to look towards the future, and the future will arrive with success. Make a to-do list each day consisting of items you can actually complete, not just stuff you will “work on.”


At any time during the business cycle, growth-oriented companies should invest in three major areas; a) research and development, b) marketing, and c) human resources. As an entrepreneur, you should do the same, but without spending massive amounts of money.

To get into R & D mode, conduct some customer research; or complete a survey of current practices so that you can write an article. Meanwhile, create a price list for new services that you have always wanted to offer and that are consistent with your mission.

Then, invest in marketing. This starts with understanding what drives your marketing machine, whether trade shows, demonstrations, centers of influence, referrals, or pay-per-click advertising. Know what works, and do more of it, not less. Spend on marketing. Update your web site. Send out a newsletter. Attend a trade show. Just don’t cut back.

As for HR, how about upgrading your own skills? Or developing strategic partnerships? Become a virtual company – don’t hire staff, hire team members on contract. And bring on a virtual assistant to let you focus on the most important aspects of your business. Preciosa Leal, who leads Alliance Business Solutions says, “A resourceful virtual assistant can cost effectively provide an instant boost to your productivity.”


Find ways to stay in touch with your customers and prospects. Be empathetic, not pushy. They have enough people chasing them for their business. As Scott Worsley, owner of The Film Buff says, “We are constantly being marketed to.” The world doesn’t need another blog, another announcement that you have updated your web site, or another offer to send an information kit. On the other hand, what they would appreciate from you is your expertise and the good value you offer. To stay in touch, you can:

  • Make copies of relevant articles, or write your own. Mail them to your best customers. (Yes, try real mail once in a while. It might just stand out.)
  • Suggest a value-added service that you can offer over the phone at no charge. For instance, conduct a “check up” after a seminar, offer to review a marketing plan, or provide a coaching tip.
  • Visit your customers. Print broker Jeff Biggs of Inkwell Marketing delivers materials to his customers, giving him another opportunity for contact.
  • Offer creative financing for projects they would like to do now but cannot afford. Invoice them later. Or charge the full price for one part of the project, while offering the other part at no charge.
  • Call to offer congratulations, birthday greetings, or best wishes for an upcoming holiday. If there isn’t one coming, make one up. Everyone appreciates a smile.

Business coach Warren Coughlin says, “A recession simply means that supply exceeds demand. People are still buying, you just have to stand out from the crowd and find those who are ready to make a purchase decision.”

Watch for part 2.

Mark Ellwood
(416) 762-3453

Mark Ellwood is the inventor of the TimeCorder and author of at least three books on how to use time wisely. (Some call that time management. But you can’t manage time; only your use of time.)

Books by Mark Ellwood:
Get More Done
A Complete Waste of Time
Cut the Glut of E-mail
Order his books here

George Torok
Business in Motion


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