When things get tough, stake stock and adapt. Don't expect past strategies for success, no matter how tried and true, to pull you through uncertain times.
That's the advice that business expert and author Donna Every offers small business owners who are struggling to find their footing in the wake of the Great Recession. It will require introspection and some reinvention -- both personal and professional.
And Every has a knack for personal reinvention.
After a stint working at Ernst and Young in Barbados, she gave into her passions, left the prestigious firm and "started on my own, consulting and business teaching," she told Small Business Computing. Now, she's helping business owners find success in an uncertain business climate.
When Every's not consulting or leading seminars, she's writing non-fiction business books. And, last year, she released her first novel, The Merger Mogul. In it, (warning: light spoilers) the protagonist follows some of the guidance that Every offers business owners to survive the drama and intrigue.
How to Capitalize on Unpredictability and Market Uncertainty
Here are five tips that Every suggests you use to take advantage of an uncertain economy.
1. Build on What You Have
When a weak economic climate or forces beyond your control rock your business, take a look at what's around you -- your available resources and whatever skills you can offer -- and use those to your advantage. Don't expend time, energy or funds chasing a goal that gets farther away as your company drifts closer toward collapse.
Every offered the example of her friend, a designer who specializes in upholstery. A storeroom full of material was just sitting there, "at a cost to her," she said. Instead of waiting for business to pick up again, the designer decided to "make cushions with inspirational quotes."
The result of this inspired bit of creativity: a booming new business in relatively low-cost home accessories.
The same works for skills. "I'm accountant by profession, but I began to write," said Every. Now she's successful on her own terms while helping others do the same.
2. Follow the Vegas Rule
Every is not a gambler, she admits. But in business, even she has had to take some calculated risks.
In an unsteady or uncooperative business climate, you may have to take a financial risk chasing an opportunity. Every advised going into your dealings thinking, "What am I prepared to spend to lose?"
It might turn out that you (or your budget) can't stomach laying out so much cash in pursuit of that next big score or a big market expansion. Perhaps more modest, less pricey ways of drumming up business are worth the investment instead.
3. Forge Alliances
A good night’s sleep may involve dreams of crushing your competitors underfoot. But when the going gets tough, why not try making friends instead?
In grand diplomatic fashion, Every reached out to a rival business speaker and consultant. Instead of competing for speaking engagements, they teamed up. As a result, they now head bigger -- and better paying -- seminars.
Also look beyond your industry. For example, use your marketing savvy to help put a Web designer or software developer on the map. In turn, you might get a snazzy new website or help building an app.
4. Capitalize on the Unexpected
In short, get ready to pounce on new opportunities. Don't get hung up on setbacks and let them define your business outlook.
Projects get cancelled, suppliers go bust, and big customers fold. "Have a positive outlook and be fairly able to bounce back," said Every. "Instead of planning damage control for the next unexpected contingency, try looking at it as an opportunity. Get creative as you look for the positives it presents."
5. Stop Forecasting
Forget what you think you know. By its very nature, an unpredictable market refuses to follow your rules.
Instead of planning based on past successes or on predictions of market conditions that may never materialize, focus on what you can accomplish now to improve your business. Don't dismiss the lessons of the past; just realize that they may not work out the same way in an uncertain business climate.
Nimble, adaptive and successful entrepreneurs may sneak a peek at the crystal ball on occasion, but they don't let it steal their attention away from the business realities and opportunities of the present.
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