Most people look at hard times as when the focus is not protecting your existing business and making sure that it does not shrink. That’s a big mistake. It means you are focusing only on the enemies at the gates. A business can never be inward looking. It is not a self supporting entity. A company exists only in relation to its market and unless it focuses on that market, it will soon be separated from it. Then it becomes like a fish out of water and soon dies.

The smart business owner knows that most people do what is outlined above. That provides him opportunities to go into the market and while the competition is so busy looking inwards, occupy some of their territory.

It sounds great in theory, but when times are hard, how do you create the resources to build your business when you are already suffering as much as everyone else? The answer is that you don’t. Money and other resources are not easy to come by. What you need to do is redeploy what you have with you.

The first thing you need to do is not panic when business slows down. Use the time you now have to examine your business operations in detail. Do a SWOT analysis. What about the opportunities you missed in the past – can you do something about some of them now? What are all the organization and systems changes your company needs? Is this a good time to implement them? Is there training that your people need but could never spare time for because of the pressure of work? Would now be a good time for arranging for this?

All these are ways of generating internal strength – what is called “structural strength.” It will not bring you immediate profits, but puts you in a position of strength for when the economy improves.

That is the long term. But the immediate can’t be ignored. Your analysis will have shown you the things you need to do and the things that are either a waste of time or which are important but don’t require management input. Drop all the activities that are wastes – those which do not, at least indirectly, contribute to your profits. The important things that don’t need to be directly managed should be outsourced. This will not only free up management capacity but also improve your cash flow and provide you resources for your growth activities.

Now, you are left with just your core activities, get your company lean – move out people, offices, and equipment and so on that you do not need.

And now to the final stage. You are leaner, more tightly focused and stronger than you were before. Can you use your existing customers as conduits for more business? With your new strengths, can you take some business away from the competition? Has the recession created a new niche market that you can attack? Don’t look only at what opportunities the market offers. Look at what opportunities your new strengths can create.

This is not as easy as it sounds, but is what smart companies have historically done to prosper during hard times. Just remember that your competition may also have the same ideas, so if you don’t grow, he will. And it will be at your cost.

Linda Belan
Your Outsource Solutions, LLC
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