Keep your firm flexible in all areas, not just staffing. This includes raw materials, inventory and even office supplies. Anticipate busy periods and staff up accordingly. If your company manufactures a product, see if you can build to order rather than stock piling inventory.
Work towards becoming a partner with your customer. Relationships become all important in tough times. It’s more difficult to dismiss a business “partner” than it is to resign a vendor. Ask yourself how can I help my customers’ business succeed and grow? If your customers’ business grows, yours will too.
Look for ways to do more with less. Are there cumbersome policies and procedures that have been in place for years? Organize teams to review each department and come up with ways to streamline operations and improve productivity.
Invest in training. Life-long learning for yourself and your employees ensures that your staff is ahead of the technology curve. The business arena is constantly changing and employees who are exposed to new ideas and programs become enthused workers. Make sure you and your staff have the necessary skills to be competitive.
Make work fun and enjoyable. These are stressful times with dwindling job security and job loyalty. Employees who look forward to coming to work will always do a better job. Keep out unnecessary stress whenever possible through internal recognition programs, open communications through newsletters and bulletin boards and frequent pats on the back for a job well done.
Promote teamwork. No one person has all the answers and/or all the skills needed to work on difficult issues. Rather than spend money on costly outside consultants, turn to your staff for solutions. The knowledge that they hold the key to increase sales or boost profits builds self esteem and morale.
Have contingency plans. If a key employee leaves or a competitor moves in with a new product, don’t be caught unaware. Always have a plan A and a plan B for backup. In these competitive times a company can’t afford down time.
Keep your business cutting edge — watch and react to trends in your industry and with your competitors. Where is the competition headed and do you and your company want to go there? If not, where do you want your company to go and can you get there ahead of the pack? What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and how do you react to them. Don’t forget to be objective and look at your own strengths and weaknesses as well.
Make sure you and your company aren’t trying to be all things to all customers. Do what you do well — and do it really well. There are profitable niches out there and entire industries have sprung from niche markets. Find out what the big boys are missing and go after it.
Act like today is the first day of your new job. Encourage your managers to instill this enthusiasm in their staff. At least once a quarter ask your staff to think “What if…” and look at their department as an outsider. What changes would they make if they acted like their job was new and this was their first day.
If your goal as a business owner is to keep your company intact and under your ownership or management, the key is to be vigilant. Be assured that if you are not paying attention to your business, someone else is.