Friday, January 9, 2009

Eleven Strategies That Will Make Your Company Boom

Every day we hear doom and gloom in the markets and the media. “The sky is falling” appears to be the refrain repeated around the world. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and their senior executive teams could easily succumb to the fear factor generated by all this coverage of market changes.
Market corrections can be a superb time for companies to take advantage of incredible opportunities to not just thrive, but to grow and succeed beyond their wildest dreams. David J. Greer surveyed over two hundred entrepreneurs with experience in downturns to discover the best ways to manage through the current business cycle. In this article, he provides eleven strategies that you can use today to make your company successful, not despite the current market conditions, but because of them.
We may not have all the answers, but in this article we have tried to ask the right questions. The eleven business strategies we focus on are:
Business Cycles
Strategy and Focus
Cash Is King
Business Model
Human Capital
Product Innovation
Business Cycle
Remember that these business cycles have been repeated many times in the past several decades. We don’t know when the current downturn will hit the bottom, how long before growth starts, and how fast markets will grow once they have recovered. If this downturn follows previous ones, markets will recover and they will start growing. While you need to survive through the downturn, make sure that your planning window includes the hoped for return of the good times. Entrepreneurs I spoke with for this article say that the good times will return.
In the short term, you do need to manage through the short term adjustments, especially cash (which we cover in Cash Is King). It will take hyper focus on Eleven Strategies That Will Make Your Company Boom 1
customers and revenue, along with careful management of expenses. Gordon Smythe of Propel Partners says “Running out of cash is the only way that companies go out of business.”
You are not the only one impacted by the changing market landscape. Your suppliers, partners, competitors, and especially your customers are also being impacted by lowering GDP and spending. When you are planning on future corporate directions, keep this in mind. There may be an equal set of opportunities to go along with the challenges of the market changes.
All of these impacts and all of the changes you instigate will take time. Probably more time than you realize. Be realistic about your timelines and how hard it will be to make changes. Monitor your progress carefully (weekly even) to see if you are staying on track.

Recent market changes have all of us attempting to figure out what it means to our companies. As the downturn accelerates, you must act now to plan your future. The key is getting into action, but doing so with a plan that recognizes the new reality.
For entrepreneurs and senior executives there is a tendency to try and make all the decisions. In challenging times, mine your human capital for creativity and ideas. Someone will have the answer. Find ways to brainstorm and get ideas on the table. Are there individuals who are showing creativity and leadership? Put them together as a team with a deadline for coming up with five ideas from the eleven strategies listed here in the next week.
Look around your organization. Who is rising to the current challenges? Who look like they are running away or burying their heads in the sand? The leaders will rise to the top. Look for those individuals and support them.
In crisis situations, leaders often feel the world on their shoulders, especially if you are the entrepreneur or business owner. All those employees. All those customers. You can’t support the whole world. Do you usually go to the gym three times a week? Go five times a week in the crisis. If you don’t have peak physical performance, you can’t have peak work performance. Do you go to yoga once a week? Go more, both for the physical and mental aspects. Look after yourself, so that you can be there for your families, your friends, your employees, and your customers.
Work on teamwork. This is a time for everyone to pull together and work as a team. Stay positive. You will get through this time and you and your teams will be more experienced people for having risen to the challenges. Karen Luniw, founder of the Law of Attraction Center says it well. “The most crucial area of focus for entrepreneurs is on keeping a positive mindset. This is not just about positive thinking but really about believing in yourself and your product or service. It's important to keep asking ‘what's the opportunity’ as opposed to 'how am I going to survive'. These are two completely different mindsets that will create different outcomes in one's business. If you can keep your eye towards opportunity - you can see it and create it.”

Strategy and Focus

The changes in the market have been so large and so fast that pretty much every plan needs to be thrown out the window. It’s time to start with a clean piece of paper and rethink the whole strategic plan for the business. It’s time to reevaluate your positioning, competitors, services, products, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The downturn in the business cycle will end. Start your thinking three years from now. When the cycle is over where do you want to be? What will your company look like then? Focus on where you can win. What goods and services will you be offering? What will your markets be? How much market share will you have?
After you are clear on where you want to be in three years, focus on what you need to do in the next year to be positioned for where you want to be in three years. Once that is clear, figure out your detailed plans for the next quarter. Make those decisions that will get you through the near term, but keep your company strong for the medium and long term.

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