Lessons for Small Business Owners in a Recovering Economy
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Making A Comeback

Now that we’re getting settled into 2010, the economic climate is starting to change – slowly, but it’s changing. The intense pressure is off and business owners feel like they can breathe (a little) again. Many have realized they didn’t lose as much business as they thought they would, and some are seeing their businesses rebound. With all the cost cutting done last year, profit has returned.

So now that you aren’t going out of business, what’s next?

Lessons for Small Business Owners in a Recovering Economy

When you were in “survival mode” last year, you probably cut things with the intention of bringing them back as soon as you could. But, now that you’ve lived without certain things, do you see the need to bring them all back? Have you realized that you may have been a little loose with your cash before the recession forced you to act otherwise? If so, some of the things you cut probably should have gone away long ago. If there’s one positive to the recession, it’s that it is providing business owners with a “do-over” opportunity. Starting from bare bones again can remind us of how it feels to run lean and mean (and it’s not so bad!). So, as you start to think about how to build your business going forward, how will you make smarter decisions, ones that will put your business on an even better path in the future?

As business starts to return, many of our clients are finding that their teams are getting restless. Those who took pay cuts want to know if they can get their salaries back. Those who are doing more than before want to know when they can get some help. And, of course, there’s the litany of things that are broken or old or need to be upgraded.

Now that cash flow is improving, business owners will be bombarded this year with many requests for how to spend it. Before you say yes to anything, here are three areas that you should invest in:

1. Employee recognition and compensation.

Those who have stuck by you through your ups and downs want to be recognized for their efforts. When times were tough, they kept things together and pitched in. Now it’s time to show them how much you appreciate them. When we think of rewards, our minds immediately go to money. But, money isn’t the only thing they want. Surprisingly, they want simple and inexpensive things like praise, recognition and a feeling that they make a meaningful contribution to your business. As a way to say thank you, can you offer added flexibility and time off? Can you be more transparent with your business information so they can better see the difference their hard work has made? What if you could be more authentic and tell them what it has meant to you that they have persevered? These are the types of things they want. Increasing their pay is ok if you can afford it, but try to avoid the four compensation mistakes.

2. Technology.

One of the ways to keep productivity high without adding people is by employing technology. CRM systems help salespeople do more with less (and help you keep tabs on them, too). Project Management and collaboration systems are easier to integrate into your project flow when you have fewer people, and they can really offer a boost in productivity. Lastly, look for places where you are doing double and triple entry of data (Do you enter customers into CRM, and your order system and your financial system?) This is a good time to look at automating some of that.

3. Marketing and sales.

Now that things are starting to open up, it’s time to hit the streets hard. Do you have a coherent marketing message? Is it up to date with the realities that your prospects are dealing with today? What are the ways you are showing prospects the difference you can make? How are you demonstrating your expertise and experience? One way you can get more coverage with your same sales team is to add some inside sales support in the form of telemarketing or appointment-setting software.

The worst may not be over and there are still rough roads ahead. But we can’t just hide in the bunker and wait for spring. We need to be proactive about getting out into the marketplace and making 2010 our best year yet.

Photo credit: Vincepal

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