Economic Crisis Into Opportunity

January 12, 2009
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Yes, the world is changing all around us. Yes, people are spending less this year. Yes, we are all tightening our belts in one way or another, but is the sky falling? Some of you are angry about what has happened over the last few months with the bailouts and elections. Some are saying it was just a matter of time. Some are scared to death, and others have their heads in the sand waiting for it to pass or to see where we will all be in six months or a year. Others are whining and using the economy as an excuse to have poor sales, blaming the government, the mortgage industry, and now the auto industry.

So, where is your head in all this? Are you complaining to your employees and your family about how the economy is putting the screws to you? Or, are you looking at the opportunities hidden in these challenging times?

Joe Rettig of The Habegger Corp. said their sales of heating and air conditioning equipment is up. Last year was a record year and 2008 will be, too. Why is that? If the economy is killing business, why is The Habegger Corp. doing so well?

I have talked with business owners in all four corners of this nation who are reporting higher sales this year than ever before. How can that happen? Aren’t we in a recession?

There is no question that we are in interesting times, and there are huge changes going on all around us. Ignoring it is not the answer. Remember that old adage: “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting”? Well, I believe that in today’s economic and political state of affairs, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will get less than you did before.

In reality, opportunities abound all around. Some of you are way ahead of the rest of us, and your entrepreneurial fortitude has allowed you to make lemonade. (Remember, when life gives you lemons …) Still, many of you are asking for direction.



SIX SUGGESTIONS

Here are six ways you can affect a change in the landscape of your company’s future.

1. Examine your attitude. What is your mindset about what is happening and how are you conveying that to your co-workers, family, and customers? Do you believe that your company will succeed in this environment, or do you personally believe your days are numbered? Your outward attitude lets others know whether their job is secure or not. A number of people look up to you for strength and security. Don’t let them down.

Remember, you are the leader and everyone around you is taking cues. This is a great time to work with individuals in your organization, coaching them to their full potential and assuring them their career is solid. Look for ways you can help with their peace of mind and confidence.

2. Invest in yourself and your team. An organization can only grow when its leadership grows. The best investment you can make right now is in yourself and your people so you have the opportunity to grow. Read, listen to tapes, and attend seminars and workshops, both industry related and nonindustry related.
It is also a great time to invest in the growth of your team with sales training, customer service training, team building, communications, and leadership. Get in there with them and grow as a team, and you will inspire others by demonstrating you are willing to learn with them. Take the information back and use it for weekly company meeting topics. Use it in the field. Grow as a team and you will stay a team.

3. Know your numbers. Now, more than ever, it is important to get a grip on your financial situation. Collect all the data and start collecting even more and sit down with it weekly. Don’t depend on your accountants and financial advisors to tell you what you need to know. Learn to read your balance sheet, profit- and-loss statement, and know exactly where all the cash flow is happening. Understand the story these figures tell about your business and monitor the vital signs of your business.

This information allows you to make good decisions about your business, how to invest in your business, and when you can or cannot spend. You must know your breakeven point so you know when you are making a profit and when you are losing money. The numbers of your business are the score.

There are many key performance indicators (KPIs) to look to in the HVACR industry. Measure your business by them to keep you on track. KPIs are guidelines and should not govern your business, but they will get you close to where you need to be. Know your numbers and you will know your business.

4. Maintain smart consistent marketing. Despite the temptation to stop advertising and marketing, now is not the time. Now is the time to invest your marketing dollars wisely, making sure you are very clear on what works and what does not work. And, make sure you are doing what works and none of what does not work.

Are you tracking where the calls are coming from? How can you make good marketing decisions if you do not know?

Make sure all your co-workers know what your marketing offer is and teach them how to make the most of those opportunities. Communicate and educate your customers and prospects on everything that you offer, and what you can do to save them time and money. Don’t assume they know.

Your message should highlight value, not price. Do you even know what your value proposition is and how to tell people? Are your co-workers telling people your company story on a daily basis and gaining customers for life? Is your marketing supported by your phone personnel?

5. Follow up on every opportunity. Pick someone in your office that is a great customer service agent and good at closing sales. Have this person go through every service and maintenance ticket looking for recommendations that were not closed and have them call the customer and talk with them about why the recommendations were made. Who is calling on replacement opportunities your technicians have not closed? And, a strong owner/sales manager can call and close pending replacement opportunities that a sales professional left pending. If your company planted the seed, you should harvest it. Don’t let that customer buy from someone else.

6. Protect your current, valuable customer base. Let your customers know how much you appreciate them and their patronage. Send them a thank you card when they do business with you. Send them holiday greetings and regular newsletters. Make sure they know how much you care.

Make sure that each and every person on your team understands the value of your good customers and treats them as they would want to be treated. Monitor what they are doing and saying to customers and help them to understand how to deliver an exceptional experience.

If it needs improvement, find out how to do that and work with individuals or the entire team to fine-tune that relationship-building experience your customers receive. Talk to customers and ask them what they would change in your company. Find out what they want and give it to them. Find out what keeps them loyal and do more of it.

To some of you, this may seem like a lot of work. To those of you who are ready for the challenge now, all you have to do is set forth a plan to get it done. Conventional wisdom seems to predict that things will get worse before they get better. So, how are you going to fare at the end of this recession? Will you squeak through, by the skin of your teeth, barely surviving - or, not just survive, but really thrive and succeed?

I guarantee that those who just let it happen to them will end up barely surviving, if at all. The question is: What are you going to do to ensure the success of those around you? You make the call.

Publication date: 01/12/2009

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