Some economic indicators are finally showing movement in the positive direction. As I posted last week, I am seeing this in my business, as well. I don’t typically see it until clients (and potential clients) begin to see it in their businesses and respond by thinking about growth, expansion, driving new business, etc. I’m not an economist (and aren’t we all glad for that!) but I can definitively say the businesses I’m dealing with on a daily basis have new energy and purpose in their planning.
And that’s all good, right? Yes… unless you’re a business who spent the past two years curled up in a figurative fetal position, thinking only of short-term survival. If that’s the case, your recovery process is going to be much harder. Here are some issues I’m seeing:
1. Shrunken Customer Base > While most people engaged in less discretionary spending during the depression, they didn’t stop thinking about what they’d like to buy, have, or do during that time. But those businesses who stopped reminding their hiatus customers of their ability to fulfill those desires have lost significant top-of-mind ground as people begin to slowly open up their wallets again.
2. Reduced Ability to Serve > Layoffs and reductions have been part of the fabric of business for the past 18 months. Companies who’ve cut too deeply or dropped service or product lines may struggle as customers return. Training new quality people takes time, and training customers to love a different product or service does, too.
3. Bunker Mentality > Just as some of the shifts in consumer behavior are likely to be long-lasting, business owners are struggling with planning for growth again. Too long in the mind set of survival can limit big-picture thinking, visionary ideas and innovation. Some businesses are finding it hard to take risks again, and while understandable, this bunker mentality will stifle growth.
What to do?
Every business is different, but the key to starting a recovery plan is to, well… START. Don’t assume you can just go back to doing what you did before “all this” and prosperity will return. If you’re waiting for the right time to begin marketing to your customers, or planning for the next season’s offerings, or considering your hiring needs… you’re already behind.
Examine your business: How much of your previous customer base is still with you? At what level? What are they buying now and why? Do they have new needs/desires? Where is your profit? Where do you excel? Where can you grow? What challenges are you facing from a staffing, resource and marketing perspective?
The depth and breadth of the depression caught many businesses off guard, mine included. Don’t let the recovery surprise you, too.
flickr image credit juhansonin