HOW BUSINESSES ARE COPING
The long recession, the financial crisis and the changing nature of the economy have created one of the toughest business environments possible.
The long recession, the financial crisis and the changing nature of the economy have created one of the toughest business environments possible. So how are businesses surviving or in some cases even thriving? By making fierce but smart cuts, leaning more on technology, renegotiating with vendors and landlords and making their product or service a necessity -- or at least a good solid value.
But don't take it from us. Read the coping strategies of experts, managers and business owners themselves. The slide show begins to your right.
"I decided to implement a new voice marketing technology, and it’s truly turned my business around [and solved] one of my biggest business challenges -- having enough employees and hours in the day to manually call all of our clients and potential clients ... and it frees up my other employees to spend their time on more important activities."
-- Ilya Bodner, owner of Initial Underwriting Group, a business finance firm in Columbus, Ohio.
FISCAL DISCIPLINE AND CUTBACKS
"We value mid-sized companies. This is how managers say they are coping:
- Service for prompt payment disciplines – you get it and we get it.
- Securing best supplier terms with planned buying arrangements.
- Measuring required working capital and closer communication with the credit line bank.
- Considering leaseback versus buy/own arrangements.
- Review of occupancy overhead and fixed assets in use."
-- Walter L. Zweifler, CEO of Zweifler Financial Research, a New York firm that appraises and values businesses and professional practices.
KEEPING UP WITH THE TRENDS
“One way to judge consumer demand and consumer interest is to watch whatis happening from moment to moment in the immediacy of 'real timetechnology.' The Internet provides these tools. From Twitter chatter toFacebook comments, the Internet provides immediate feedback for the tastes,wants, opinions and buying habits of consumers."
-- Yao-Hui Huang, owner of Web design firm Gigapixel Creative in New York
PROVING YOUR VALUE
"We are training sales staff to focus on quantifying our benefits for clients. Tougher buyers are making us tougher. We must either make people money or save them money."
-- Dan Hoffman, pictured left, CEO of M5 Networks, a provider of VoIP business phone systems in New York "We're not offering anything different, but we've changed our message. We're leading with how we'll save you money."
-- Robert Haaverson, pictured right, CEO of Imanami, a software firm in Livermore, Calif.
"When we come out of this recession ... many of your competitors will have exhausted their every resource simply surviving. This creates tremendous opportunities for the business that continues to invest in capital improvements and other long-term items. Ask yourself, 'Can I avoid buying this altogether or am I just delaying it?' If it is only a delay, the purchase should be made now to begin receiving the benefits of the capital item. "Now is not the time to cut back on new product offerings. All of your competitors are doing that. Take the contrary view. "
-- Jim Muehlhausen, the author ofThe 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them
A BUYER'S MARKET
"We have been fortunate that our business model possesses a bit of a countercyclical aspect. ... As a result, we have been able to use the economic downturn to advantage by recruiting across our entire organization in an effort to attract top talent. ... We are also using this opportunity to make infrastructure investments in our business to pave the way for future growth and have found that we are operating in a buyers' market."
--Keith Olson, pictured left, vice president of business development at CotterWeb Enterprises, Inc., a customer loyalty and market research company in Mendota Heights, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul.
"We are putting scalable infrastructure in place, now. Frankly, this is the break that we needed to have time do this. We're automating processes, like direct marketing, customer self-service, and account management; shoring up our infrastructure; and bringing HR in-house. In short: We're cleaning up our act!"
-- M5 Networks' Dan Hoffman, pictured right
PASSING ON SAVINGS TO CUSTOMERS
"We have put pressure on our suppliers to lower their prices so that we can extend lower prices to our guests. One example is the demand for prime crab meat has dropped which has resulted in us seeking out suppliers who will drop their prices, so we are able to drop our Crab Cake menu price by almost $3."
-- Bobby Fitzgerald, who operates five restaurants in four states.
THINKING LONG TERM
"We started the firm [five years ago] with a mantra of 'smart, not greedy,' which meant we didn’t treat the company or our clients like ATM machines. We negotiated reasonable rates with vendors during the good times, which means we haven’t hammered them in these down times. That’s created a lot of good will among us."
-- Sean O'Rourke, a co-owner of Syzygy 3