Business Survival in Tough Times

Cynthia Umphrey
June 3, 2008 — 1,344 views  
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I hear a lot of people question whether it is possible to make money in tough economic times.  It is especially hard here in Michigan with jobs leaving the state, a down housing market, gas prices climbing, and negative media about it all.  Many of my clients question whether to proceed with marketing plans, business expansions, etc.  Although the exact plans each business should and should not make will differ based on their circumstances, the common theme throughout all of this is that you can make money, even expand (and should certainly continue to market) in tough times.  You just have to work much smarter and more strategically than in the past.

When the economy is strong, companies have a tendency to relax and ignore the need to plan and strategize.  Some become so busy working “in” their businesses that they forget to work “on” their businesses, something every business owner must do.

Compare several companies operating in the same market under the same conditions and you will notice that some thrive or at least chug along steadily while others develop serious cash flow problems or other issues and others even fold.  What causes the difference in success level?  Some are just lucky… but you know the saying that luck is really just when opportunity meets preparation and hard work.

The truly successful business owners achieve sustainable growth and survive down turns because they:  1) have a true passion for their business and its employees; 2) find out what employees need and provide it as much as possible; 3) plan for the future in a flexible, efficient manner with open minds; 4) act on their plans; 5) use their peers and advisors to gain perspective, inspiration and motivation; and 6) obtain and act on market information to keep them one step ahead.

To apply these themes to your business, I find the following to be useful:  1) find ways to actually enjoy your work – even the little things matter; 2) spend time with employees asking questions and know what goes on at the “shop floor” level; 3) engage an outside consultant to help you develop a strategic plan; 4) give your leadership team simple and specific action items to accomplish each week; 5) spend time every month with your peers, accountant, lawyer, financial planner and other advisors to consistently generate new ideas and motivation; 6) constantly be on the lookout for new ideas, industry developments, benchmarking reports, competitor activity and research & development relating to your product or service.

As a lawyer working with small business owners and as Learning Chair for the Detroit Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, I enjoy finding out what makes successful Michigan businesses tick.  And to all of you out there who are making it happen every day, or seeing others do it every day, I would love to hear why specifically you think your or a client’s company is doing well.  Is it innovation, luck, resources, good planning, or something else entirely?

Cynthia Umphrey

Kemp Klein Law Firm

Cynthia Umphrey helps families and business owners make significant personal and professional life decisions. Ms. Umphrey calls upon over 10 years of experience in estate planning, probate administration, business structuring and business exit planning to guide you though life's most important choices.