The expression “the new normal” is getting way too much traction. After all, have we settled down to a new economic pace that will last? Will it accelerate, decelerate or continue to plod along? As difficult as it is to move forward with your business, non-profit or governmental department during times of uncertainty…you must. Just as the value of cash eventually diminishes due to inflation, the value of your enterprise or effectiveness of your program will erode if you stand still. Author Brian Tracy put it like this, “Those who fail to plan and to execute those plans will soon be living out the plans of other people.” In my presentation to the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce, I reflected on six actions that I saw successful business taking, irrespective of the market condition. Today, I’ll share four.
Conservation: In order to propel your business, you certainly need to adjust your expenses so they are in line with your new revenues. We have actually grown the EDiS GreenSense brand by helping our customers understand how investments in energy and environmental conservation can benefit their bottom line (the traditional approach to conservation). Equally important, don’t conserve at the risk of paying the piper later. In other words, don’t turn the lights out on your customers and don’t freeze your employees to the point that they hate coming to work.
But conservation has another meaning. As your staff sizes reduce, are you looking at your workforce to improve productivity as well as carry the load of others? Be keenly aware that, just like if you were using a machine to produce extra widgets, the care and handling of your staff is imperative during the period of extra production. So while you are conserving cash, your non-monetary rewards and methods of workplace enjoyment were never more important.
Collaboration: Filling the unmet needs of our customers – isn’t this truly what we are in business to do? However, many businesses see their role as simply transactional. The banker who lends money, the apparel store who sells a dress, the coffee shop that fills a cup of coffee. But how often do we sit with our customers to find out what they really need? How often do we ask the question, “How could we adjust our product or service to make you more successful?” Can the banker help facilitate more sales, can the dress maker help you find inexpensive shoes to compliment your purchase, can the coffee shop make you more productive in the morning? Have they asked?
Expectation: This is the tough one, because it is not fair, but you are going to have to “get over it.” As the graph suggests, your customer has a level of expectation that is out of sync with your profitability. They won’t accept one egg and one strip of bacon for breakfast because your business is down. They won’t accept slow service or less attention. Why? Because regardless of the economy, they are being spoiled by the likes of Google, Wal-Mart, Disney and Starbucks. These companies have proved to them that not only can they get a superior service today just like they did in 2007, but that sometimes they can get it cheaper!
Acceleration: The companies who are thriving, not only embrace the above, they are leveraging the down economy and making bold statements for growth. Longwood Gardens, a non-profit whose endowment suffered greatly during the recession has decided they will earn their place as a leader in tourism, entertainment, environmentalism and research. The result? Travelers and locals stand in line to spend what little discretionary income they have for a day of enjoyment and escape. The Grand Opera House is seeing similar results. Through intensive community engagement and by booking a long list of acts that people can enjoy for two hours rather than travel to exotic places, The Grand continues to experience growth during a poor economy. At EDiS, we found a way to reduce our customers’ expenses by composting their food and yard waste. An odd investment for a builder you say? We are now one of the nations largest commercial composters. This investment has made us a better collaborator. In addition to our investment in the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center, we developed a web-based facilities system called BuildingBlok that increases the level of communication and accountability and ultimately saves our customers money. BuildingBlok is an example of respecting the effect of the recession on business to conserve, collaborate and exceed expectations.
Are you planning and executing those plans? I hope so, because the new economy, or the “new normal” will demand it.