Survive and Thrive in a Bleak Business Clime


The last time there was such a dismal business climate was the late 1970s and early '80s, when interest rates were almost 20%. It is easy to get down emotionally, but that isn't an option.

You have to keep a positive mental attitude, which is not easy. Even more importantly, you have to be disciplined, well-organized and creative. There is business out there, but you will probably have to adjust your prices and widen your search. To survive and thrive, follow this 10-point plan:

1. Business plan: It is always good to have a written business plan that lists your strengths, skills and a profile of the types of businesses and consumers to whom you offer the greatest value.

2. Events: Join trade associations, chambers of commerce and your alumni association to network and develop contacts.

3. Seminars: Seminars are a good place to pick up new ideas and develop contacts outside of your existing network. You can find a list of seminars by going to your regional newspaper, chamber or business school.

4. Linked-In: This online networking service is a good tool to use to make contacts that could use your service and to inform about your business.

5. Newsletter: An online newsletter is a must today. You need to get your name out to as many people as possible and keep them informed about your current and past successes. The service I like to use is Constant Contact, which is relatively inexpensive at less than $600 for the year to house a database of 5,000 contacts or fewer.

6. Press releases: Send a one-pager about a recent accomplishment to the media. Using Constant Contact, you can blast it to your entire mailing list.

7. Past clients: Contact past clients and offer to take them to breakfast or lunch to catch up and find out how you can help them. If you have a store that caters to consumers, hold a quarterly, semi-annual or annual customer-appreciation event where you serve finger foods and drinks. People will come because it is free and rarely will they walk out without buying.

8. Write: If you have writing skills, offer to work for your local newspaper for free. Any exposure is good and will increase your chances of someone calling you. Develop a few 500-word "how-to" columns, have someone edit them and submit them to local editors.

9. Attend services: Whatever your denomination, it is a good idea to attend services. Not just to pray, but to be seen and network. You never know who you are going to meet at services and how they might be able to help you. Also, many churches, synagogues and mosques have business-networking groups.

10. Speaking: One of the best ways to raise your visibility and develop prospects, referrals and strategic partners is to conduct in-person and online seminars. My preference is live events because you get to meet people in person. Organizations that are always looking for speakers are the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, business clubs at places of worship, business clubs and alumni functions.

The only way to fight your way through a difficult time is to be aggressive and be seen. Out of sight is out of mind, especially with everyone looking for business. Keep in mind that 70% of success is determined by just showing up.



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