As your business trims the fat and weathers a tough economy, here are a few business tips and practices, from business professionals, including Stacy Tetschner of National Speakers Association and Pamela Barker of Genesis Strategic Planning Inc., to consider to keep your business afloat without burning out employees or missing opportunities.
Cut back or not?
When money is tight, what should your business cut and keep? Some businesses are cutting essentials that cost them customers. To keep and grow your customer base, Stacy Tetschner, CEO of National Speakers Association, says to follow best-selling business writer, Jim Collins’ advice.
“Find out what you are best at,“ Tetschner says. “It’s great to generate alternative revenue sources, but don’t forget your core business. Make sure you provide that better than anyone else in the world.”
To keep your businesses performance level above the competition, Pamela Barker, president of Genesis Strategic Planning Inc., says to invest in your employees. “Make sure people are well trained, naturally wired for their roles, and share in your organization’s vision,” Barker says. “Also, stay with services and products that have a high rate of return and are tailored to your niche market.”
Good service with a skeleton crew
Since 2008, many businesses survived by whittling down their staff. Employees who absorbed workloads of terminated positions are now facing burn out. Ownership in goal setting is one way to keep employees engaged and creating realistic, long-term work plans.
“It is important for teams to set thematic goals with everyone contributing action steps,” Barker says. “Patrick Lencioni’s team building material asks the critical question, ‘What must happen in the next 30, 60, or 90 days to consider this organization a success?’ Goals are set around the answer, but goals are set as a team.”
It’s also important to build the fire of excitement around what your organization is doing to keep employees inspired.
“Show your team your excitement about your vision,” Tetschner says. “Everyone wants to be excited about what they are doing and why they are doing it. And when your employees do incredible work for you, be sure to show your appreciation.”
Marketing and networking don’t always need to involve money. There are ways to stay connected to your community and interacting with the public without spending a dime.
Social media: Create a strategy with reachable goals for getting customers interested in your work using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up for Ragan’s Daily Headlines, a free e-newsletter with social media ideas (ragan.com).
Community presence: Barker says to stay in touch with your community by “serving on non-profit action committees, stay involved in the chamber, and the Better Business Bureau.”
Develop partnerships: Partner with non-competing businesses to provide discounts to customers. “You can share marketing expenses and enhance the brand image of each other,” Tetschner says.
Ready to launch?
With as much cutting back and energy put into surviving a fluctuating marketplace, this is actually a good time to launch well thought-out products and services. Tetschner says to look at what Apple did with iPhones.
For services, Barker says its an excellent time for pilot programs with solid strategies. “Create a win-win service for clients,” Barker says. “Their participation in the pilot project can create a stronger relationship. It can also help to create a service with a proven track record for future clients.”
Before launching, continue to monitor and evaluate your business. “It is easy to identify opportunity areas,“ Tetschner says. “But in a time of doing more with less, it is important to decide what programs or products are not generating revenue or meeting goals and make a strategic decision to let them go.”
Adapting to unbalanced economic recovery
As the economy recovers in segments, its creating new challenges for professionals in the meeting industry. Stacy Tetschner, CEO of National Speakers Association, identifies two challenges and strategies for response.
Corporations are taking 60 days or less to book a meeting.
Understanding the meeting’s purpose — “When everyone understands, it makes decisions and selections that much quicker and focused.”
Identify what will be accomplished for the organization — “Think through how attendees connect, network and build professional community to how key messages are delivered and reinforced.”
Keep a sense of humor — “Make things happen in a cool and confident manner. Your bosses and clients will love you for it.”
Due to shorter booking times, former practices in forecasting businesses are not applicable, hindering long-term decision-making.
Keeping accurate historical records — “Everything from inquiries for meeting (looking for peak periods) to usage numbers at a meeting. With accurate numbers, new trends and dates can be developed. If this is going to be our new reality, we can develop good tools to forecast for shorter time frames.”
Evaluate in six- to 12-month ranges — “This will allow you to know possible pieces of future business, which can help negotiate and create a longer relationships (for better pricing) with vendors and suppliers.”
[stextbox id="grey"]The National Speakers Association flagship book, Paid to Speak: Best Practices for Building a Successful Speaking Business is available at www.paidtospeak.org.[/stextbox]