If you own your firm, buy from, or sell to small business, your reaction is probably “Welcome to my world!” or “Tell me something I don’t know!”
In meeting and working with scores of business owners, I’m hearing everyone wish their business would return to profitable growth; even just to 2007 sales and profit levels. But, to make this happen, many refuse to risk money, change “best practices” or renegotiate with uneconomical customers, vendors or banks.
So it seems there is a stalemate. To profitably grow, small business has to change, but changing means taking unacceptable risk. What can we do to break the impasse?
Here are five ways to bust out:
1. Stop doing anything your customers don’t insist on paying you for. Too many firms are still providing costly frills their customers don’t value. Seriously, who really misses pillows on an airplane?
2. Follow the money and do business with those that have it. For example. If you can’t do business with the government, can you do business with those who do business with the government?
3. Big companies have more money than time or confidence! If you can reduce the career risk of their buyers, they will find the money to ensure their work, despite cutbacks gets done. Restructure your offer and create new services that guarantee outcomes instead of providing deliverables to help these buyers get budgets approved to pay you.
4. Look for orphans. Many customers and their needs have been abandoned by their shortsighted vendors. And many vendors are looking for new customers in non-traditional markets. Who can you buy from that will help your business to thrive again?
5. Reject those who see your value as abundant and pursue those who perceive you as scarce. Many customers and vendors who were out of favor are again in demand. Brownfield properties are now being remediated into highly-valued commercial and residential property. Where is your value seen as scarce?
The mood of business today seems to be one of resigned acceptance and a yearning for predictable times not returning soon. So you can either hunker down and embrace the new insanity or bust loose and take smart chances. John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, put it best when he said, "My goal in life is to give everyone all my work, so I can spend all my time thinking of new ways to make money."
Andy Birol is also a noted small business coach, consultant and speaker who has been interviewed on CNN, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Entrepreneur, and Fortune Small Business. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyBirol.