Paul & Sarah
com) are the authors of
Middle Class Lifeboat
and 16 other small-business books.
times get tough
WHEN TIMES ARE GOOD and money is flowing,
specialize; when times are not so good and money
is tight, telescope. Telescoping is our marketing
rule of thumb for extending or adding to the range
of services you provide to existing customers
without undoing your reputation in the business
specialty you have developed. It means observing and listening for things your clients need that
you could offer to do for them more economically
than they could do for themselves or by turning to
Some people telescope instinctively, but at
times finding ways to telescope what you offer
to the particular needs of your customers may
require some thought. Here’s how it works.
If you’re a contractor doing work at a home or
office and overhear or notice your customer needs
to cut energy costs, ask if you might retrofit the
windows or adapt the roof so it can be turned into
a roof garden that will provide greater insulation.
Similarly, you can offer to help homeowners seeking to cut rising food bills by building a greenhouse
or cold frames.
If you’re a home inspector and notice your
client is concerned about energy costs, you might
suggest an energy audit. Energy auditors go by several names—energy raters, building analysts, home
performance specialists—but whatever the service
is called, it’s an effective way for people to get the
information they need to cut back on soaring electricity, natural gas, propane or heating-oil bills.
If you’re a real estate agent and your potential
clients are concerned about whether their home
will sell, you can offer to stage the home so it’s
presented in the way that’s most attractive to buyers. Staging usually results in a quicker sale and a
If you’re a travel agent helping a bride and
groom with travel arrangements for a destination
wedding out of the country, you can offer to coordinate with the wedding organizer in the distant
If you’re a tax preparer and notice a client is
downsizing the bookkeeping staff, you might offer
to do the bookkeeping as an outside service.
Telescoping enables you to either expand what
you offer or contract back to your unique niche,
depending on the demands of the economy. C
“THE ECONOMY IS, to a large extent, a mind game.
The less people think they’ll be making a good living,
the less they’re willing to spend. And the less they
spend, the less money flows in the economy. It’s a
vicious spiral.” So says Costco member David Ge wirtz,
editor in chief of ZATZ ( www.zatz.com), an online
publishing company. He is the recipient of the Sigma
Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters. In one of
ZATZ’s e-zines, Computing Unplugged, he
offers the following tips for keeping a business going during these crazy times.
•Stay calm and get resourceful.
There’s a point where you have the
choice of going loco or letting it wash
over you, a point where you actually
make an internal decision to ride the
emotion. Stay off the ride.
•Think about what you should be
doing. If business is still churning away, do a
better job and charge less. Ask customers
what they need from you and do your
absolute best to do it. But be
careful about just offering discou nts willy-nilly;
doing so could devalue your brand after the downturn is over.
•Be smart about what you spend. A bad economy is often a great time to buy stuff cheap, but buy
only what you plan to use soon.
•Keep marketing. If people don’t know you’re
out there, you won’t sell stuff. And you need to
• Be creative, and look for good deals.
Work with your vendors to get deals that are
fair for everyone. Your vendors are probably
as overwhelmed and challenged right now
as you are.
•Be kind to others. Everyone’s on
edge, and some people may lash out. Just be
nice. It’ll help everything run more smoothly,
it’ll help you feel better about yourself and it
may help you get what you want more easily.
For more information, visit www.
computingunplugged.com, and enter
“Thriving in a chan ging economy”
in the search box. C
Staying sane in an insane economy
SUCCESS HAS MORE often
been attributed not to talent
and ability but to the
choices made. In his book
Monday Morning Choices:
12 Powerful Ways to Go
from Everyday to
on costco.com), author
and Costco member David
Cottrell ( www.cornerstone
home the point and offers
12 principles for successful
living, grouped into three
types of choices:
• Personal choices.
These are the choices people make that mold their
character, including accepting responsibility, commitment, values and integrity.
• Action choices.
These are the kind that lead
to success, and include
sticking to one’s objective,
about work and life, and
attacking and conquering
• Investment choices.
These have nothing to do
with the stock market or
According to Cottrell, “You
cannot be successful in the
long term without investing
in relationships, accepting
constructive criticism, seeking the truth and giving
back to others.”
The book offers words
of wisdom, practical tips
and questions for discussion when you form your
own Monday-morning discussion group with kindred spirits looking to
move forward in life. C