RICH SLOAN: START UP, KEEP GOING
that nicomh), aeleading business
advice and networking
site for entrepreneurs.
IT’S NO SECRET that running a business in this
economy is a challenge. But with the right smarts,
you can get through the storm.
To survive you’ll have to make the most of
your time (which you likely have more of as a
result of less customer activity) and take into
account the impact of your business-bolstering
efforts today as well as in the long term.
Here are five tried-and-true survival strategies
used by successful entrepreneurs.
Cozy up with customers. They’re your
lifeblood. But, much like you, your customers are
under duress. Take them to lunch and commiserate. Provide a giveaway that recognizes their
past patronage. If you take the time to listen to
customers’ needs and show them you genuinely
care about their welfare and success, you’ll likely
uncover immediate business opportunities as well
as engender future loyalty.
Experiment. The worst thing to do during
tough times is lose your entrepreneurial spirit.
Use any extra time to conduct product-, opera-tional- or marketing-related ideas you’ve always
wanted to explore but were too busy to try. For
example, you could form a strategic alliance with
a complementary business or run a special buy-one-get-one-free e-mail marketing campaign.
Loop in financiers. Rather than recoiling
into the shadows, proactively share with your
banker or other capital sources exactly what’s
happening and what your plan is. Ensuring that
they understand your business and are well
attuned to your future plans will help you avoid
the kind of financial surprises that often occur
when parties aren’t well informed.
Trim hours, not staff. Consider cutting your
employees’ hours rather than firing them. It not
only shows you care about their welfare, but strategically it also helps you retain your most valuable asset— your people—for when the economy
inevitably turns around and you need full- and
even overtime hours from them. Finding and hiring good new employees and training them is a
huge burden that you should avoid if you can.
Stretch your spend. To make every dollar
go as far as possible, review all of your vendor
contracts. Where reasonable, ask for breaks on
pricing. Everyone’s in this together. Don’t let your
pride keep you from taking advantage of potential
savings. Every dollar saved will be critical during
the down year to come. C
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for on-hold content:
• Anticipate what information callers need. Note frequently
asked questions and include the
answers in your message—e.g.,
store hours and location. More
than one location? Mention all.
WHEN TRYING to market a
business cost-effectively, many
think Web sites, social networking, teleseminars, etc. But one
tool used daily is often overlooked: the telephone system.
Costco members Ron and
Lori Hersey, owners of Hersey
Productions Inc. (www.hersey
productions.com), an audio production studio in Davie, Florida,
produce custom on-hold messages as well as full radio campaigns. They suggest the time
customers are on hold can be
used to promote products, provide information and keep them
captivated. Lori says, “Always
choose a recorded message
• Announce your Web site
address and fax number and
whether you accept orders those
ways. Customers can use those
alternatives rather than waiting
on the phone.
instead of the local radio station
for your on-hold filler. Other
than the cost of the playback
equipment and production,
it’s free and targeted marketing
time for your business. And
when you play the local radio
station you run the risk of an ad
for a competitive business being
played right on your phone to
The Herseys offer these tips
• Mention sale prices or special offers, and remind callers to
inquire about them when a sales
representative takes their call.
best biz book
THOUSANDS OF business
books are published every year.
How does a business owner
choose which ones to read?
Costco members Jack
Covert and Todd Sattersten,
owners of 800-CEO-READ
800ceoread.com), review 120
books a year. Now their new
book, The 100 Best Business
Books of All Time: What They
Say, Why They Matter, and
How They Can Help You
(Portfolio, 2009), helps you pinpoint the books you need.
Each reviewed book is put
in context for readers to quickly
find solutions to the problems
they face. Categories include:
• Improving your life, your
person and your strengths
• Leadership, inspiration, challenge, courage and change
• Organizational blueprints to
draft your own strategy
• Approaches and pitfalls
in the ongoing process of
• Guiding and directing the
people around you
• Guides to the passion and
practicality necessary for
any new venture
Even if you don’t have time
to read all 100 books, the
reviews alone may just impart
some wisdom. C
• Update your message for • Freshen up the message
holidays. Mention special holiday every six to eight weeks. This is
hours or if you will be closed on your free and instantaneous
certain days. chance to get company informa-
• If possible, add comedy to tion out to the public.
your message. People tend to • If you’re not the creative
remember it, and chances are type, you can always hire a pro-will pass along the humor and duction company to create an
most likely your business name. on-hold message for you. C