Tough Times Never Last, Tough People Do
Rising food and fuel prices, unprecedented home foreclosures and a decline in the value of the U.S. dollar are current causes of consternation for economists and consumers alike. Business owners, too, are concerned about what declines in profitability may be in store. While some of the greatest minds continue to debate the length and depth of a recession, this much is apparent to me: Business owners need not give in to a negative economic mindset. Rather, by taking proactive measures now they can secure a more profitable future for their company, both in the short- and long-term.
Start with your staff
One of the most effective tools for determining an employee’s worth is the time-proven “to do” list. This is particularly true for support personnel, who often operate with minimal oversight. Have each support employee submit a “to do” list on Monday, followed by a status report on Friday. Use these lists to balance the workload between under- and over-tasked employees, and identify unnecessary job positions.
Cross-train your employees
Lessen the impact an absent employee has on your day-to-day operations by cross-training employees. Most workers welcome such an opportunity as it makes them feel valued by their current employer and more marketable to future employers.
Revisit your choice of vendors
Make sure you are purchasing competitively priced products or services from your vendors. Conduct on-line price comparisons and visit with potential replacement vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask current vendors for better deals via rebates, special offers, alternative products and locked-in rates.
Bring whatever tasks you can in-house
Compile a list of tasks currently being outsourced and decide if you can bring any of them in-house. For instance, many companies utilize outside labor for Web site postings and maintenance. While in-house employees cannot be expected to learn the intricacies of Web site troubleshooting, they often can learn how to post content in just a few days.
Address carry-over tasks
Address tasks you keep putting off such as the updating of staff job descriptions and bios, employee handbooks, customer service procedures, etc. Doing so will eliminate uncertainty regarding outdated or non-established procedures and cast your company in a more professional light.
Reconnect with former business contacts and increase your level of participation in both industry and non-industry organizations and events. Be sure to document any information gleaned from phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face meetings so you can update contact information and personalize future communications.
Cut back on your level of advertising and step up your level of publicity, e.g. press releases and feature stories. These print pieces are inexpensive to develop, are published for free, can be written days or weeks in advance and distributed as needed. If you do not employ a writer, hire a freelancer; poorly written copy reflects badly on any company.
Unnecessary clutter slows down employees and wastes space. Devote a few days to purging files of unnecessary papers and organizing both personal and shared work areas. Pay special attention to areas used or seen by clients. Assign a few staff members to keep such areas clean, regardless of how busy they or your company may be.
With an increasing number of Americans going green, clients and employees alike will notice eco-unfriendly choices. Recycle whatever you can and replace costly bottled water with filtered tap water and washable cups, and current light-bulbs with LED bulbs.
Solicit ideas for reducing costs
Encourage employees to submit ideas for cutting costs. And don’t rely solely on management or accounting personnel for ideas; some of the best suggestions come from lower-level employees. For instance, a front-desk employee is more likely to question the need for a courier service when standard mail delivery will suffice.
Although times may be tight and the future somewhat uncertain, a doom-and-gloom attitude by anyone—particularly management—always is counterproductive. Conversely, a positive attitude is just as contagious and fosters camaraderie and optimism.