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SURVIVING TOUGH TIMES

by: Cary Christian

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson


To me, the above is one of the most inspirational paragraphs ever written. It also holds the key to surviving tough times.

Frequently, the only weapon we really need to succeed in life is the will to do so and the perseverance to continue through the darkness that sometimes envelopes us. Sure, talent and knowledge can't hurt, but with perseverance we can gain considerable amounts of both of those qualities.

When business starts to slow it is very easy to pull back and become more defensive in your approach. It is natural to take cost-cutting steps, be less aggressive in your marketing and to generally adopt a more low-key, hunker-down-and-wait-it-out attitude. Sometimes this works. More often than not it just weakens, and possibly destroys, your business. So just what should you be doing?

TO STRIVE . . .

I have often watched my favorite football team, leading in the fourth quarter, start playing a "prevent defense" only to find it prevents nothing and they lose the game. Why do they lose?

They have adopted the stance that they will give their opponents the short gains and focus all their abilities on preventing the one big score that will lose the game for them. The opponents, with nothing to lose, take what they are given and strive to make more out of it. More times than not, they make enough out of it to win.

When you're down, it is not the time to lay back and play it safe. When you're up, but not by much, it is also not the time to lay back and play it safe. You must always be striving for the best you are capable of. This is even truer when your business is going through tough times. Be more alert to opportunities, and when you see one, make an aggressive move to exploit it.

TO SEEK . . .

Opportunities are everywhere. When your business is down, the businesses of all your competitors will probably be down also. It is usually a function of the economic environment and affects everyone in similar fashion.

But downturns in business always produce opportunities for those who are actively seeking them. Any downturn could be your opportunity to step forward and capture market share from your competitors, and maybe even DOMINATE your target market. So keep your senses finely tuned and study your market. Ask yourself:

o Why are customers buying less frequently?
o Why have some customers dropped out of the market altogether?
o What would it take to bring them back or get them to spend more?
o What can you do to make purchasing from you easy and risk free for your customers and potential customers?

Think outside the box here. Do not let yourself be limited by the things your industry has always done. BE A PIONEER! This may be your chance to change the way your industry does business.

If your industry generally does not offer credit terms, offer them!

If your industry does not provide leasing options, get with a leasing company and develop a leasing program!

If your industry generally does not offer services bundled with the products, find some unique and valuable services to bundle that will set you apart from the rest!

This is nothing new, of course. It is called finding your own USP, or Unique Selling Proposition. Nothing new, but all too often overlooked. When times are tough, seeking your own USP is just that much more important.

TO FIND . . .

If you seek long enough and hard enough, you WILL find the angle you need to exploit a tough market. Once you find the opportunity, don't be afraid to commit your resources to take advantage of it.

As I said in the beginning of this article, when times are tough there is a tendency to cut costs, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. But do not, under any circumstances, let cost stand in the way of taking advantage of an opening you've worked so hard to find. Commit to your new killer strategy and go for it! You can cut costs elsewhere if need be.

Divide your costs mentally into two categories: overhead and income producing. Cut overhead everywhere you can and put these savings to work in the execution of your new market strategy.

AND NOT TO YIELD

And so we're back, full circle, to perseverance. You cannot yield to a poor economic climate, or fear, or naysayers, or anything else that will stand in the way of your growing your business and executing the strategies that will help you capture a larger share of a shrinking market.

Life is what you make it. Your business is what you make it. Make them both good regardless of your current environment! Repeat to yourself every morning when you wake: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!


Copyright (c) 2002

 


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