Sunday, October 05, 2008

How To Recession Proof Your Company

No matter what industry you work in, the economy is affecting your business. Regardless of if you are directly or indirectly touched by the current banking and credit crisis, your ability to plan for the future is uncertain. While the Congress has taken action to help Wall Street and Main Street, the reactions on your street are still unknown.

Nobody wants a recession, but the signs seem to be clear that near-term future is going to have some bumps in the road for most businesses. This leaves the smart entrepreneur looking for ways to best navigate the unpredictable economic climate and setting course to thrive in their industry.

Competition is tough right now for everyone, but even in bad times there is always someone who beats the downward trends and ends up on the top. Everyone wants this winner to be their business, but not everyone knows the secrets to preparing their company to recession proof their future.

All opportunities come from people. No matter what you do for a living, it is people who make the buying decisions that add up to your bottom line. A doorknob has never been responsible for you winning a sale (unless you are in the doorknob business – and even then it is really people!). Therefore it is your relationships with those whom you do business that lead you to beating the competitor in good times and in bad times.

Most people instinctively believe that they are great with relationships. I have never met a company that did not claim their best resource was their people or that they did not have excellent customer service skills. But everyone makes these claims and we all know from our own experiences as consumers that businesses often fall short of delivering to the customer – even when they claim they are superb in this area. Your company is no different than the thousands of others who claim successful consumer relationships, but unless you make it the number one priority every day, the reality is that you are possibly falling short of your goal to serve others.

Too often employees get busy doing their jobs and forget that every interaction, either in person or over the internet, is a chance to advance the personal relationship with customers, prospects, vendors or referral sources. Many who work outside of the sales department subscribe to the myth that their job is not about cultivating relationships, and they just do the minimum amount required to get by. They get away with this because they are neither encouraged nor rewarded by management to take an active role in promoting and protecting the image of the company.

Everyone at the company must feel they are instrumental in building relationships and they all must understand that everyone’s future paychecks are directly tied to the bond that they can each collectively forge with anyone and everyone they encounter.

Networking is a word that is misunderstood and undervalued by many businesses. The definition of the word does not mention attending Chamber of Commerce events and trading business cards. It is not about getting to play golf or drink free beer. Networking is “building a mutually beneficial and supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”. This means that all employees are part of the company’s network and must understand the importance of the power of business relationships.

In a soft economy many people forget that it is that network of people in your community and industry that can and will be making referrals to clients. They can only give a certain number of choices to those in search of your product or services. If you are not making the short list of companies, then you will be going hungry during the downturn.

Educate your workforce that it is everybody’s job to be involved in growing the business. Each time they have the gift of connecting with anyone they might be able to promote the company. To leave this to chance is gambling with the future of all in the organization.

Have A Great Day

thom

Thom Singer is a professional business speaker and the author of four books on the power of business relationships and networking. He regularly instructs corporations on creating a “networking culture” inside their companies to protect and promote the image of the business. He can be reached at www.thomsinger.com

2 comments:

Eric Doggett said...

Great post, and good points that apply not only to those employed by companies, but also the small 1 or 2 person businesses out there (i.e. mine).

Being sure to go the extra mile in these times may make the difference between being hired for one contract or many.

Paul Singh said...

You're absolutely right - it does come down to networking. As you mention in the post, networking is “building a mutually beneficial and supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”

But, I'd like to add that you can't simply be networking with anyone. You've really got to be focusing the majority of your efforts on the people that actually sign the checks. Or, perhaps more importantly, the people that *directly* influence the people that sign the checks.

You can have a network of 10,000 people. Though, if none of those people are in the position to actually buy your product/service, you're really not any better off. (Sure, they might know a friend of a friend -- but, you can't count on those.)

In general, contacts don't always equal contracts. In both good & bad times, you need to work on stacking the cards in your favor: focus your networking efforts on the people that have the power to actually buy your stuff. If you can pull this off, you'll be able to ward off the recession and set yourself up for even more success when the market comes out of this down the road.