Mark Twain was fascinated by those river pilots who spent their entire lives learning and relearning the ever changing meandering of the mighty Mississippi. With drought and then floods, the mighty Mississippi was a challenge to keep up with, then and now. It was impossible to learn the right way to cruise that river once and for all as the ever changing shoals, sandbars and currents constantly rewrote the charts with not so much as a mind your manners glance. We too must be pilots on our uncharted journey. Never much of a fan of group think, leadership and innovation are among the single most important qualities top management can bring to the table these days. Today we will discuss basic concepts and ideas that will help you and your company prosper regardless of the economic conditions that come and go just as the channel constantly shifts on the mighty Mississippi. Let’s give it a go; shall we?

 

Given that you can’t control the macroeconomic headwinds that have changed almost everyone’s plans, you must play your own game, instead of someone else’s. This means that you cannot predict your future success on past actions; the market is different and consequently requires a different approach than in years past. Second, since your company’s survival may be at stake, you can’t delegate nearly as much of the day-to-day business as you used to because the margin for error is much less. This is a fundamental issue that is tripping up many businesses that developed a rhythm in past years that worked pretty well until recently. Many of us got sloppy over the last several years; success tends to do that. We believed that we were Masters of the Universe and that all the good things that happened to us were a direct result of our outstanding decision making process. A lot of people have gotten that knock on the door bringing them back down to reality, i.e. reality bites! It is high time all of us reevaluate how we do business and how tightly we are going to hold on to those reins. It bears repeating again: the margin of error for mistakes today is razor thin. Are you holding on tightly enough to those reins?

Next on our hit parade is cost control. Everyone looks to cutting cost as perhaps the most important single thing you can do to be successful today. I never understood how saving money winds up bringing money in. What does bring money in is process efficiency. If you can deliver your services faster and more efficiently than the competition, you have a competitive advantage and that’s something!

Capitalization is a fancy word for having enough money to pursue the opportunities you wish to go after. Many of our readers are small businessman who mix their personal and business finances. I have heard what a mistake that is often enough from financial professionals that I can hear them say it in my sleep. But, it does not change the reality that many business owners do comingle their assets and cash flow. It does not help that credit facilities by and large require the personal guarantee of the owner of the company and that personal credit cards are often used by said owner for the expenses of the business. Insofar as possible try and separate business from personal assets and keep good books. The records you keep are not just for the IRS, they are for your use in understanding your own business. Few small businesses and many large businesses do not use their books to help manage and direct their own companies, thereby missing out on excellent information that can help you control costs, pursue efficiencies and benchmark your business.

Marketing. You will hear us bang that drum over and over. I can’t get over how many people first confuse sales with marketing and then just as likely don’t trust marketing if they do. The number one thought we hear today when it comes to selling is that they’re tucking in their horns and working with just a few people they know. Well hello! I can’t think of a better recipe for failure than limiting your options in a tight market; can you? Maybe you cannot afford to spend tens of thousands on marketing at the moment, we understand that. But there are some low cost, high reward solutions that you can implement quickly. Dare I say your DEC Reports fall into that category? There are always options to do more than your competitor who is cowering in the corner.

Finally, your resolve to do something and to take personal responsibility for marketing is perhaps the single most important element in an array of things you can and must do to come out on top. Every week take time to just think for a moment. How can I make my business more competitive or where is an unexploited opportunity. They always exist, just waiting for you or your competitor to find. Just as the river pilot of yesterday and the river pilot of today must adjust to the river’s changed conditions, so must you. Will you be the pilot of your own ship; will you be the one to find that opportunity missed by others? Good Selling!

Good Selling!

Allan J. Feifer

AllanF@DEC-International.com