While the prices of some goods and services are lower than we’ve seen them in a long time, don’t let it fool you. Doing business in today’s economy is more expensive and more treacherous than this country has seen in decades.
So what is a business to do? What most businesses are doing is the basic act of reducing overhead and the cost of goods and services. They are operating leaner and asking their people to do more with less. And, because of the high unemployment figures, most of America’s workers are working harder this year for less money.
But this kind of leaner, meaner approach to today’s economic conditions is not going to be enough. “Doing more better” will only allow you the right to keep struggling. The fact is, you can only cut so much and people can only become so productive. So what’s a business to do?
I’m humbled by the fact that this year, despite the economic turmoil, Caruso Leadership Institute is having its busiest year ever. Actually, the whole reason I mention this is that I want to share with you how I think this came about. I attribute this growth to three main things.
- Fortune. Some time ago a businessperson I respect told me he’d rather be lucky than good– and being someone who strives to be my best– I’ve never forgotten that.
- Foresight. At the cost of being called negative, I began telling friends and clients that this economic downturn was coming. In fact, long before the housing crisis began, I gave a seminar among the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum teaching how, in many ways, the US today has more in common with the Ancient Roman Empire than we do with our own culture of the 1950’s. So, to avoid being a hypocrite, I did my best to prepare my business for what I thought was coming.
- Fortitude. This is the one I want to focus on in this blog because it may be the one that can help you the most.
Cutting costs in tough times isn’t enough to ensure that your business can survive, and even if it was, survival in an extended economic crisis is not a big enough goal. My clients realized that they could no longer afford the systemic sales, marketing and senior management problems they could afford when times were good. When they understood they needed to change the manner in which they fundamentally approach their business, they contacted me for my expertise in knowing how businesses and organizations create change.
So what is your business to do? Apart from engaging consulting services, there are a few steps you can take internally. I adamantly urge you to spend some time thinking about these and discussing with your colleagues.
- Re-examine how your senior management team defines their approach to the business, the market and the way they communicate and lead. They need to create an environment where every employee becomes a business-minded person who is focused on the top and bottom lines. While this is challenging, it is not necessarily as hard to accomplish as it sounds.
- Provide the highest level of training to your sales staff. Not just in product, service and market knowledge, but in what makes people buy—the psychology of the purchase. Further, once they are trained use your measurement and reward systems to track success and failure. Reward your performers and rotate out the non-performers. This step will pay for itself in very direct ways.
- Re-assess how marketing and sales work together to create sales. While it’s often hard to measure marketing success, it’s easy to see when it’s failing. Successful marketing needs to drive sales, not merely create awareness.
I know that it’s hard and perhaps a bit scary to invest in your business during these difficult times. It requires great fortitude and courage. But fixing the problems that we can no longer afford by investing in permanent solutions just may be
the smartest bet we can make. The first step could be forwarding this to someone in your organization who understands the urgency to fundamentally improve the business. Get the conversation started at the highest levels as soon as you possibly can. If you or your company has not started this process yet, the time is now.
Whatever steps you take, I wish you well.