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The Benefits of Tough Times

by Terry Brock

We're supposed to be in tougher economic times. At least that is what the "experts" are telling us. Well, I like what I heard back in the 70's about talk regarding a recession then. The sign I saw said, "We heard there was supposed to be a recession but we decided not to participate."

As a small business you have much more control over what happens in and to your business than our friends in the big sky scraper, grown-up-type companies. Sure, we are aware of what is going on around us but we are more nimble and fast. We can turn on a dime faster and make adjustments faster.


Tough times have a lot of benefits for those that have that indomitable spirit to succeed. What many don't realize is that tough times create enormous opportunities for those willing to seize the moment.

Some of these benefits include:

Lower costs for rental space. Rental bargains are created if others are going out of business. Think of ways you can expand now to take advantage of low rents.

Vendors are more eager to negotiate. You can often negotiate a better deal when times are tougher with your vendors. They win by getting much-needed business and you win by getting lower costs for merchandise you need.

Lower salaries for employees. You can often hire good people for less during tough economic times.

Better retention of employees. People are more likely to stay with you when times are tough and there are fewer jobs available elsewhere.

Produce cheaper and sell where markets are demanding your products and services. Don't limit yourself to the US only. Use the power and accessibility of the Internet to reach out to a global market. Think 21st Century marketing, not 19th Century geography.

Tough times make you stronger. This is one of the best benefits of tougher times. It burns away the chaff and helps you become a better person. You can become more of the person that you want to be. It requires more discipline but then, learning more discipline makes you stronger for the future.

In tough times you get learner and meaner for future growth. You focus on what is most important and get rid of some of the excess that can accumulate during the good times. Let's face it; we can get fat and happy when sales are coming in a bit too easily. Remember way back in 1999? Tougher economic times help you to refine your thinking and your business to do more of what your core mission is and focus on profitability.

 Adopt a more austere approach. Think of the Biblical story of Daniel in the lion's den. By focusing on less of the "rich, fatty foods" and on a more healthy "bread and water" diet you can achieve the financial goals that you want more easily.

Tough times force you to be more creative. When money is flowing like water it can dull your creative juices. When you don't have the ready means to write a check and have to think twice before slapping down that credit card, you become more creative. You tap into areas that you wouldn't have thought of or considered when times are good.

Less competition. Many of those that aren't as good are weeded out. You'll have fewer competitors and usually the ones that are gone are the ones that can give a whole industry a bad name.

Chances to help others in need. We all go through tough times. People will remember when you were there to help them when times were tough. This applies to business as well as to personal relationships. If you see a potential customer that is having a harder time, think of the long-term value of helping them. This might mean taking smaller orders, giving good credit risks some credit now or other ways to assist. In the long run, this caring strategy can pay rich dividends. I remember those that helped me as I was getting started and stay with them today. Relationships are most important in today's world.

Don't just cut costs--- optimize costs. Be careful that you don't cut muscle when cutting fat. You have to focus on those areas that are going to produce revenue for you now and into the future. Cut out the extra parties and trips in first class. Don't cut the training sessions that build critical business skills.

Demand and hold your vendors accountable for performance now more than ever. You are in a position to make sure you receive what you need in order to achieve your business goals.

Fire some customers. Fire customers who are too demanding and who are consistently unprofitable. For those customers that are draining you and don't provide as much profit, cut them to focus more on those with greater opportunity. You only have so much time. Use it wisely and invest your time in those customers that are more likely to help you achieve your goals.

Acquire good people. Watch for those that are laid off. There are many gems out there that you want to employ now while they are on the market. They will provide the ideas and resources for you to grow in the future. Now is the time to acquire their services.

The tough times are good, if we manage well. Take this short opportunity (predictions are for the economy to be back strong in a year) to closely examine your business and personal life and be ready for the great opportunities to come.

Terry Brock is an internationally recognized professional speaker, consultant and author in the fields of business productivity, technology and marketing. His is also a syndicated columnist for Biz Journals across America. For information on his presentations call 352-438-0261 E-mail [email protected]   More about Terry www.ExpertSpeaker.com/Speakers/brock.htm  

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