"The ability to navigate a down year may be one of the most important traits that successful entrepreneurs need to develop in order to sustain their business over the long haul.” That line comes directly from my book “Hitting the Curveballs" and I believe it may be the most important one in the book. Why do I say this? Because many small business owners are dealing with that very issue in 2013 as the US economy continues to experience little or no growth and the future continues to appear uncertain at best.
Closer to home, in my industry (video conferencing and audio visual technology) 2013 has seen a major shift from hardware to software based products at a rate like nothing I have personally seen in the past 23 year s(that I’ve been a part of it) To no one’s surprise, but highly disappointing to ISI nonetheless , this has resulted in many of the company’s top prospects and clients hesitant to make major purchases of AV/VTC technology. They simply don’t like investing in uncertainty.
These series of events has translated to less than great year in 2013 for both the industry and ISI which makes running the business more challenging than ever before. But what do you do about it? How do you keep your company on track and moving forward when sales are lagging and the future so uncertain? How do you keep your head up when so many things are going in another direction?
I’m not sure that there is a magic formula but here’s what’s working for ISI right now:
1) Make Tough Choices - When ISI first sensed that the industry was making a major shift from hardware to software we made key personnel decisions that resulted in not only trimming our workforce (to cut overhead costs) but moving other employees around to maximize productivity.
2) Retool the Business - ISI has used the less frenetic pace of 2013 to retool the business and work on sales order processes, purchasing strategies, consolidating job functions(warehouse/expediting)etc. to position for future growth.
3) Invest In Morale Boosters - When sales are slow, employees get nervous and nervous employees are typically not as productive as they could or should be. Recognize the psychological part of employee productivity and do something about it. ISI has invested in a number of morale boosters in 2013 that include a company barbeque celebrating an employee’s 15 year anniversary as well as a book launch party/luncheon for “Hitting the Curveballs that will include employees, key clients and suppliers. It’ll be a great way to boost morale and show “we’re all in it together.”
For a company that has experienced astounding success for the past several years it is never fun dealing with the challenges of a down year but I believe by staying positive and implementing the strategies outlined above ISI will not only rise to the current challenges but once again grow in 2014 and be more successful than ever before.