The AIA has created the Navigating the Economy Web site, bringing you the latest resources–podcasts, articles, financial tips, best practices, and economic reports–to help you and your firm through these tough times.
A link from the site will send you to this article from SmallBusinessNotes.com:
Mark Vitner, a senior economist with first Union Corporation has been quoted as calling the belief that small businesses fare poorly in economic slowdowns, “a common misconception” that is not true. He believes that solidly run small businesses actually hold their own during downturns. While we all like to believe our businesses fit the definition of “solidly run”, let’s take a look at what are some commonly cited best practices for all businesses to be following during a time of economic downturn.
Revisit Your Business Plan
The number one recommendation, across the board, is to reexamine your business plan. Your business plan should be the working base for your company. Have you strayed from it in any way? Does it need revision in light of new information? Should you be considering whole new directions that are not included in it? Sit down and read it from the perspective of someone about to invest in your business – and make any revisions that seem appropriate. You may even identify additional information you need to know in order to make decisions about the future of the company.
Seek Supporters and Advisors
If ever there is a time to network, this is it. Many companies set up advisory boards that include a wide spectrum of professional expertise that they can draw on for advice. Such board members often are attorneys, certified public accountants, civic club leaders, owners or managers of businesses similar to yours or whom you do business with, and retired executives. The latest jargon for these types of boards is “Power Circles.” An apt name because the members should be power connections for you – knowledgeable about the environment in which you do business and able to connect you with the information you need to make good decisions. The purpose of the board is to offer you objectivity. They should be people you can be truthful with and who will keep your disclosures confidential. Most groups like this discuss specific business problems you have, using the meeting to brainstorm possible solutions.
If you don’t belong to civic and professional organizations, do it. Here are groups of people facing similar challenges to you. Their joint expertise and resources can be a powerful support mechanism when times are tough.
Make Customer Satisfaction Your Priority
Your customers are your lifeblood in any economic climate. In a downturn they are what keep you in business. Treat them very well. Spend time listening to your clients to hear what they like and do not like about the services you offer. Change those that you can. Take time to be innovative in meeting your customer needs. Perhaps taking the time to computerize customer information would allow you to more easily access their particular preferences and respond quickly to their needs. Perhaps taking time to call special clients to discuss how you could serve them better would be productive. Maybe an extra telephone line would speed the service time. Do whatever you need to do to keep your current customers loyal and to position yourself to win new customers.