Tip of the Month for October 2011

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Tip:  Thriving in Today’s Economy

Studying the headlines every day for clues to the economy can be a frustrating process, and trying to figure out what works best in today’s economy can be exhausting. Relax. Surviving and thriving in today’s economy often doesn’t require abandoning your old systems in favor of something new. In an atmosphere of uncertainty, it is easy to lose sight of business basics in a fruitless search for some fail-safe solution. Successful business owners must adapt to conditions – good or bad – in order to reap the rewards. Here are some of the tried-and-true philosophies that characterize successful entrepreneurs.

  • Make your own luck. We all face the same basic issues – product demand, credit availability, customers’ spending habits, economic slow-down etc. The winners are those who stop focusing on the problems and switch to being part of the solution. A positive attitude and outlook are vital in a tough economy. Don’t indulge in the idea of being a victim of today’s tough economic times. We are all affected by the same problems; but every situation brings opportunities for those who are willing to look for them. Open your mind to searching for new possibilities.
  • Change your mindset. Stop referring to how things were and focus on what’s happening now. How can your business or your firm be a solution for customers in today’s market conditions?
  • Recognize your advantages. Small businesses have the ability to respond to changing conditions faster than large organizations. They are unburdened by the unwieldy systems, layers of management and inflexible policies and procedures that make it hard for bigger companies to adapt and respond in a timely manner.
  • Be a positive leader for your employees. People who work for and with you take their cues from you. A despondent leader unwittingly encourages defeatism and pessimism among those who are crucial to the business’s success. Be realistic and honest about problem areas, but make it a point to focus on remedies and positive action. With customers, by all means lend a sympathetic ear if your client needs one, but don’t join in the pity party. Use the feedback to develop new products or services that might help them. Instead of sympathy, offer solutions.
  • Avoid major change; instead, embrace improvement. It is tempting to think a big change in your business systems is the key to adapting to outside economic issues. Perhaps it isn’t. If your business systems are informal – like many small businesses – then perhaps it’s time to review them. Don’t engender chaos by tossing out what might only need fine-tuning for something that is more complicated.
  • Review and improve your basic business systems. Make sure that all the processes in your business – receiving customer orders, making sales reports, accounts receivable, etc. – are documented as simply and straightforwardly as possible. There’s no need to create fancy training materials or online tools. A simple checklist of tasks that outlines responsibilities, approval procedures and timelines is all that is usually needed. These checklists should be provided to every employee and made readily available online and/or as hard copies.
  • Make new business everyone’s business. Build referral partnerships. Bring not only your employees, but also family members, business partners and others together to discuss what additional services or products might be of interest to your clients. If you are able to assist the company that services your fleet of trucks, perhaps they might refer a contact that needs your professional services.
  • Be smart with social media. Set aside specific times to handle social media. Find sites like LinkedIn that will allow you to participate as an expert in your industry by answering questions from fellow group members.

Bottom line: tough times don’t necessarily require a radically different approach to business. What is essential is a willingness to adapt to market conditions and to accept responsibility for generating your own success.


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