The following is a composite of a discussion I have had with several people in the last few weeks.
Me: “So how are you?”
Them: “I am awful… business is awful, the economy is awful.”
Me: “Wow? That bad?”
Them: “Yep that bad. Things are slow.”
Me: “So what are you doing about it?”
Them: “Just plugging away trying to get some revenue in. I invested a bunch of money in ( insert equipment or real estate) and now sales are down.”
Me: “So what are you doing differently to turn this around?”
Them: “What do you mean differently? I am just worried, and my nerves are shot.”
Does this sound like a familiar conversation? Does it sound like a conversation you have had in the last couple of months? Well I have a lot of respect for your dilemma and I have empathy but let me be blunt; “just plugging away” isn’t going to do it. It is now time for radical, positive decisive leadership. Now.
Some of this may seem obvious, but when you are in the middle of a crisis it can be very easy to overlook fundamental truths. Here is a summary of advice I have been giving my coaching clients:
Look to other sectors. One business owner I was talking to had 80% of his business from one sector and 20% from another.
He was so pleased with the 80% he lost all the 20% and it dried up and blew away. You can predict what happened next – suddenly revenue cratered and he had all his eggs in one giant basket. Get your groups together, circle the wagons and look at all the other revenue channels you had in the last 3-5 years, and list them.
For example a car dealer who is not selling new cars would concentrate on:
1) used cars
2) service of existing customer
3) repairing cars of non- customers
4) sales of parts
What are your other sectors? It is the age of versatility. Here is something to think about- people are spending money some where. Brainstorm a strategy to go get it and don’t leave the room until there is a plan even it if takes until midnight. If this is an emergency then treat it like one.
Go outside of the normal geography. One V.P. I was talking to only services the five counties around the Philadelphia area. When I asked why he said “it makes no sense to drive two hours one way just to make $6000 for one day.” My reply: “so with the price of gas kind of low why wouldn’t you?” In this economy you may have to work smarter and a lot harder. Are there areas geographically that you could serve with some ingenuity and imagination? Are there areas where you could set up a satellite office few days a week? I recently saw a walk- in clinic in a drugstore. It was so obvious it was brilliant. Where else could your business reside that is closer to your customers?
Time to offer additional “up sell” services. If I already have a customer I am dealing with then why wouldn’t I offer them more services in one place? The local Ikea store offers furniture for sale. But they don’t stop there. They also rent out roof racks for the cars and believe it or not, trucks by the hour to haul the furniture home!
Whatever it is your business does, if you offer 1 and 2, why aren’t you offering 3, 4 and 5? Is it because it is difficult? Is it lack of resources? Come on! It is much easier to sell an already sold customer than a new one. So if I own a bedding store, I am going to sell everything over and above a mattress and box springs: 1) Bedspreads 2) Lamps 3) Nightstands 3) Pillows 4) Reading lamps 5) Night lights 6) Five different ways to get the bed home 6) Decorating services. Look, you already have their trust. If only 20% of your customers bought more services, then your sales would increase 20% but I am guessing it would be high margin business. What can you add to your typical sale that people need? If you don’t offer it they can’t buy it. Even McDonalds adds fries to a ton of orders everyday by just asking.
Think proactively and positively. “What?” You say “In the middle of crisis and worry and sweating bullets you want me to think positively?” Yes. Why? It’s simply two reasons:
1) This is not difficult to understand. Human psychology says that none of us want to associate with someone who is “losing.” We all want to be around winners. So when we act uptight and nervous, we give off vibes and ironically, just when we need the business the most we won’t get it. They can smell it. You are making them doubtful and uncomfortable, and no one wants to buy from a business that may not exist tomorrow.
2) Your team is watching your every move and when they see you not positive, not upbeat and lacking confidence it is contagious.
They then fall into the mode described in point #1. Morale slides quickly downhill. Going to the office is akin to attending a funeral.
Take action. In my opinion the salve for anxiety and worry is action, not reaction. Meaning when you brainstorm and plan and come up with a strategy it feels good. It gives the team energy and enthusiasm and most importantly, direction.
So unroll your blueprint and start tomorrow building the future. As John Wayne (yep the cowboy actor) once said:
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
So what are you going to do?
This article originally appeared in B2B magazine
Photo: Getty Images