I had lunch with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago. There was a huge storm the night before with trees knocked down and a bunch of carpet carnage. As I drove through the neighborhoods which modeled war zones, I figured that I should maybe give her a call to make sure everything was still on. Not only was it still on but she got to the place early and was waiting. She commented that she was completely oblivious to the storm’s impact as she was busy and had not turned on the TV. She did not know things were so bad until she was already in route.
In review, although I was relatively unaffected directly by the storm, I was more affected because I knew more and I let that knowledge affect the way I reacted. Although we can’t really take the approach of “not knowing what is going on” we can respond to situations differently in order to lessen the affect. This tactic works perfectly in business situations during times when the economic climate is not ideal.
Our company has been in business for 29 years and we have been through more recessions and economic downturns than I could count. What I have learned through all of this is that you can’t spend time worrying about it. Time is better spent on action items that help address the problem.
The 1980’s featured a severe recession that began in 1981 and ended in 1982. Unemployment was at 10% and reached up to 25% in Rockford, IL. We are an Illinois company. When you are in your 20’s you are not really attune to these types of business matters, so I started a software development company in 1982. Had I known better I probably would not have. But, like my friend who missed the terrible storm by “not knowing”, I started a company and proceeded as if the economy was normal.
In 1984 a bank with 45 billion in assets failed. Our company forged on, doing our marketing thing and selling software. Then there was “Black Monday” in 1987 when the Dow Jones Average fell by 22.6%, larger than the collapse of 1929. The panic that followed led to a short-lived recession with some residual ongoing injury. You make it through by doing what you need to do.
You really have to think of all these ups and downs as “business cycles”. A while ago, I read an article that said, “Fear will kill your business”. It will because it brings about negativity. Negativity erodes confidence, destroys hope, suppresses vision and all of this leads to total lack of productivity. Proven leaders must lead their companies onward and take action in order to procure whatever business is available to be had.
While everyone is out there wringing their hands all “concerned”, you can be out there marketing and selling. When conditions aren’t just right you need to be creative. Thank goodness for automation! There is so much that you can do in low-cost marketing it’s absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes marketing budgets are the first to go when looking to cut costs. Always remember that marketing leads to revenue and if you cut marketing and/or tools that help you to market your numbers will be down. Come up with a cost efficient formula and sustain your marketing efforts. It’s always best to stage an attack on your competition when it’s unexpected and when they are too busy worrying about the economy instead of marketing. No one is freezing all spending and there are always some impulse buyers waiting for you to call. Your services could help customers make it through slower times so it’s a win-win for everyone. Add up all of the win-wins and suddenly the economy is not so bad.
Email marketing is an excellent place to start. Email marketing pieces come loaded with links to your website, blog, Twitter®, etc. You can’t get a bigger “bang for the buck”. To email market you need a list. Target marketing to a specific audience always works best. This is where a good contact management system comes into play. In the competitive world of staffing, the industry leaders will be those that have a lot of information stored in their database with appropriate coding so that thousands of records can be selected instantly. Markets change, requirements are adjusted in different business climates and sometimes your audience will change. You want to always be prepared to take action and be able to address the current environment. That’s what keeps you in business.
Business reporting significantly enhances your ability to make decisions and react quickly to changing situations. It also allows you to make informed decisions rather than jumping on a “trend bandwagon” that is simply a quick passing fad. One of the mistakes a lot of businesses make is that they “pull out all of the stops” and shift gears based upon a new and upcoming trend that has not proven itself. Stay with what you know works but be ready to adjust quickly when you have confirmed the time is right for you to make your move. Business reporting will provide this information. The trick is that in order to easily produce this type of reporting, your system needs data.
Keep your database up-to-date and loaded with information. Utilize tools that your software has in order to increase productivity and reduce time that is spent on little things that add up to huge chunks of time. The old phrase “time is money” could not be more true. Spending time on tasks that can be done in a lot less time takes away from the real job of marketing and positioning the company for success. There are both small and large companies out there using multiple software solutions within the organization operating as separate functions. This lack of integration separates the business and breaks down communication between departments. All of this equates to low productivity and customer service offerings. Productivity and customer service can make the difference between winning or losing accounts.
To recap, take advantage of automation, be prepared for change, stay focused and turn off the TV.
Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff software for the staffing and direct hire industry. Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and the web. For more information on Ultra-Staff go to www.abd.net.