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On Jan. 1, 2009, as we contemplated the specter of the most ominous economic recession in generations, I began encouraging small-business owners to subscribe to an attitude and a goal that would serve them well in what looked like a difficult year ahead:
- The 2009 Small-Business Survival Attitude: “There is no shame in surviving. This year I’m going to win by surviving.”
- The 2009 Small-Business Survival Goal: “To open the doors of my business to customers on Jan. 1, 2010.”
Here we are, a year and a half later. If you’re still in business, take a moment to celebrate that accomplishment by congratulating yourself and your team. Seriously! Get everyone together for high-fives all around.
The good news is, technically speaking, the recession ended a year ago and we’re in the recovery quadrant of this economic cycle. But that macro-economic truth is cold comfort if you’re still fighting to regain pre-recession sales and profitability levels.
Of all the concepts we have to understand in order to claim our piece of this new economic age, perhaps the most important is economic recovery. For those who lead small businesses, there are actually two recoveries taking place that impact our future: national and individual.
The national recovery is the aggregation of many elements, both economic and political. Small businesses are directly and indirectly affected by the national recovery, but other than our production contributing to the whole, the big picture is beyond our direct control.
Our individual economic recovery actually plays out in two pieces of real estate: 1) the physical and digital marketplace in front of us; and 2) the five inches between our ears.
For most of us, executing in the marketplace is less daunting than dealing with our demons and doubts. But, as Main Street entrepreneurs have demonstrated for generations, when we scale the self-talk summit and traverse from negative to positive we find success, and it becomes our companion.
Fortunately, it seems many small businesses are turning from negative to positive. The third annual Signs of the Times national small-business survey conducted by FedEx Office in April 2010, offers a good example of this positive momentum.
I discussed this survey on my radio program, “The Small Business Advocate ® Show,” in an interview with Randy Scarborough, vice president of marketing for FedEx Office.
Randy reports that more than half of small businesses participating in the survey are either fully recovered from the recession or expect to be recovered by the end of 2010. That response is more than good feelings — that’s real recovery evidence.
And it’s good to learn that small-business owners still believe in themselves and their peers: Nearly three-quarters of respondents to the FedEx Office survey think that small businesses will be the driving force behind economic recovery in 2010.
One of the most interesting findings is that small-business leaders have a steady commitment to their marketing and advertising strategies, which are essentially the same for 2010 as they were for 2008, before the recession was official — and for 2009, when the economy was everyone’s big worry.
This response demonstrates a maturity among business owners. They recognize the importance of reminding customers that they’re still in business, even when such a commitment means sacrificing elsewhere. The survey points to a likely source of this maturity: Approximately one-third of respondents believe that the cuts they made in marketing and advertising last year had a negative impact on their business.
Also of interest: While almost half of respondents say they’re increasing their online presence, nearly two-thirds believe traditional marketing and advertising methods are more effective at bringing in customers than Web-based alternatives.
As a long-time observer of small-business behavior, I’m encouraged to see that these marketplace heroes are not only feeling hopeful about their future — they’re also thinking specifically about the best ways to find, retain and serve customers. Moreover, they’re willing to tell the world that they’ve survived the gauntlet of the Great Recession and fully expect success.
If you need a shot of optimism, an example of marketplace leadership and someone to admire, hang out with a small-business owner. And say that I sent you.
Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the creator and host of the weekday radio program, “The Small Business Advocate® Show.” Jim is also a speaker, a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of “Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas” and “Three Minutes to Success.”
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