I recently attended the Women Presidents’ Organization annual conference where Lynda Applegate (professor at Harvard, author of numerous books) spoke on how to not only survive but THRIVE in this economy. Her main premise was that small companies can really take advantage of this economy because of how nimble we are. I took the following notes during her presentation. They’re a bit choppy but all still excellent points for coming out of this recession strong.
In order to thrive in this economy, we need to execute on three things:
Stabilize – shore up cash flow, make sure processes are solid, reaffirm pricing models. One way that we’re doing this at Bramble Berry is to look over all of our sourcing to make sure that we’re getting the best pricing we can on everything. And, of course, we renewed our line of credit to make sure we have ready access to capital.
Strategize – focus on the essentials but don’t let opportunity pass you by, ruthlessly execute strategy. One way that we’re working on executing our strategy is by developing new lines within our existing company. Look for an announcement about a creative flanker line debuting mid July from the Bramble Berry family.
Innovate – try new things, be an industry leader (within reason. Don’t neglect your core business while innovating). We took this to heart by purchasing the Heavy Duty Mold line and are now manufacturing soap molds from a warehouse in Bellingham.
The key question for any small business right now is “How do I take control of my business and how do I stabilize?” This is no time at all to be reckless. There is tremendous uncertainty out there and none of it is really known. Cutting without strategy is not the answer. If all you do is cut fat, then muscle, then bone, you will not be prepared to come out of the crisis healthy. You don’t know what to cut unless you’ve thought ahead to say “Where are these opportunities going to be?” What if you lay off your staff only to realize that the economy is bright again but you can’t take advantage of those opportunities? As you think about the opportunities, as you stabilize, be sure you are strategizing at the same time and continue to build your business with precision and focus.
Innovation during this time is going to be critical. “You cannot fix the economy by throwing money at it. It is not a money mess. It is the failure of sustained innovation.”
New leaders often emerge during crisis: 18 of the 30 companies in the Down Jones Industrials were founded during an economic downturn.There are opportunities for those with cash still in this market. However, this can bring another issue up: buying on a whim.
Don’t buy anything just because it’s cheap! Do not ever buy businesses just because they are cheap. It’s like shopping at a discount store and there are discounted stuff on the table and you pick something out and go “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this but it’s SO cheap!” And then you never use it. Don’t buy things you don’t have a clear plan for.
Crisis helps focus business and drive efficiency. It is much easier to teach values of frugality, sacrifice and patience to employees, partners (and your children) during this time of turmoil.
By running your business better, you will start to build more recognition by the fact that you’re a survivor. People will start to flock to you.
If you sit here waiting on the sidelines, you’re going to miss the biggest opportunity of your time. Whether that opportunity is to really lead your company and make it stronger and build your brand around the fact that you’re a survivor, whether you’re seeing those adjacent opportunities, whether you’re cutting back so you can get strong At all times though, keep your eye on why you’re doing what you’re doing, on your strategy. What’s the medium term positioning that’s going to help me think through where I’m going and how do I play defense to make sure I’m strong in the back?