Instead of taking a “head in the sand” approach, use the resources you already have to push through the difficulties—and you’ll end up at the forefront on the other side when the economy picks up again (and it will).
Here are six ways you can start to do more with what you’ve got— right now:
1. Specialize Become a specialist. Identify your core business and stick to it. Remember Pareto’s 20/80 Rule (80% of your business comes from 20% of your products/services). Don’t waste your precious and limited resources, time, and money outside your core. A recently published article by Stanford Graduate School of Business found that product creators and sellers whose offerings or expertise are connected with only one or two categories have better sales than those whose goods or services are more generalized. The more singularly focused entrepreneurs exude the impression that they are experts—that they know their stuff a little better, and this adds to the comfort level and willingness of customers to buy their products or use their services. An added bonus to doing more with what you’ve got. When you concentrate on your top 20% of products and services, making sure that they are “never out,” always relevant and sought after, you are ensuring that certainly 80% of your business is moving along profitably.
2. Prioritize Ask yourself, what do I want to accomplish? What will move me closer to my goals? Prioritize your list. Develop a system to execute each step toward achieving your goals. Keep it simple! Prioritizing ensures that your essential work gets done—your time isn’t wasted on unnecessary tasks— your mind isn’t cluttered with irrelevant distractions— you are doing more with what you’ve got. Next step. Make certain that the goals (and the vision) you have for your organization is the same one that your employees have. How can priorities be established if everyone in the organization has different goals? Last spring a survey of more than 11,000 workers found that there was a huge disparity between the goals of leaders and the workload of their employees. Nearly one-third of survey respondents said their activities that demanded immediate attention were irrelevant to organizational goals. Don’t assume frontline workers are prioritizing their day according to your goals—ensure they are by formulating work plans together. It’s not necessarily “first things first,” its “priorities first.” Assist employees to think about their priorities each morning. Build a work plan that works—one that will result in making the greatest progress toward top goals, and stick with the plan throughout the day. Prioritizing guarantees that you are doing more with what you’ve got.
3. Spend your money—in the right places. You can’t save your way to prosperity, but you can spend your way to prosperity, if you (and your employees) spend wisely. Determine which of your resources are required to enable you to do more with what you’ve got. Use them! For example, use today’s conferencing tools (instead of flying every time) to ensure everyone has the information they need. Search for operational savings, utility and energy savings. Search for savings in every area of your business. Spend your money well by getting the right people on board. Hire well. Communicate well. Train well. Spend your money building a pragmatic but flexible execution plan. Inform your employees about your plan. Train them on its methodology, on its intricacies, on its objectives. Supply them with the right tools to make them more efficient at executing your plan. Discuss with those directly involved in the plan where to spend—where not to spend. This also requires knowing where to cut and where not to cut. Enable your employees to also do more with what they’ve got. The results of spending your money (effectively) will truly amaze you.
4. Collaborate Externally Get by giving. Especially during challenging times you are able to do more—much more with what you’ve got, by sharing, sharing, sharing. Look for ways to share your support personnel, your delivery service, your answering service. Find ways to share a network, technologies, equipment. Discover ways to share a relationship with vendors in order to get better pricing. A caveat. Choose your collaborators carefully and wisely. Choose ones who will enhance your public image just as they enable you to do more. Watch out for collaborators who may blemish your sterling reputation or your proud service record. Collaborate with third party resources to maximize your capabilities. Business consultants for example, not only offer up objective and innovative perspectives on the issues at hand, they also give you an expert’s focus, a viewpoint your organization may not have considered previously. Other external resources that enable you to extend your knowledge base quickly and efficiently are chambers of commerce, boards of trade and associations. Get involved. Meet members with capabilities and interests that enlarge your own. Much collaboration now takes place on the Internet. Information is readily available. Chat groups are ready to share. Check out previously unexplored avenues to find new ways to collaborate successfully— ways that will enable you to do more with your existing resources.
5. Communicate Instead of communicating as we’ve always done—with our employees, with our colleagues, with our suppliers and with our customers, now is the perfect time to alter our own communication habits and those of our customers. In an interesting article, Neale Martin explained that customers often switch to autopilot when they buy. A purchase decision repeated again and again often becomes a habit (and we know how hard habits are to break.) However it seems that today’s marketplace instability can disrupt even the most entrenched buying habits. There is substantial evidence that suggests customers are altering their buying habits. In such a situation it becomes our responsibility as marketers to re-establish those buying habits that were favorable to us. In order to do this we must really get to know our customers anew, determine what products/services they are willing to buy now and communicate our solutions advantageously. Keep in mind that the communication avenues you have always used to talk to your customers may no longer be the most appropriate. Communicate via the media that ensures that information is favorably received and accepted by your customers. Even if they make small regular purchases, it will get your customers back in the habit—the habit of buying from you. Now is also an opportune time to communicate with your competitors’ customers as well, since they too are ripe to alter their purchasing decisions. Greet these new customers and make them your own. The Internet has become a powerful tool to communicate to an increasingly wide group of customers. Create a website and/or a blog that does more than just feature your products/services. Create one that offers real content that your customers and potential customers will appreciate and use. (Do Something. Learn Something. Share Something. Change Something.) Another ready audience for your business can be found simply by looking out at your community. Community involvement is an excellent way to build awareness. Participating in community events, teaching a class, sponsoring a sports team, joining a chamber of commerce says volumes about you, while at the same time helps to build your business. Communicate as you’ve never communicated before to get more than you’ve ever gotten before.
6. Be Accountable. Be Responsible. Be accountable in order to get accountability from your employees. Use the “who does what by when” formula. This ensures that everyone is accounted for and knows the timeframe and parameters of their responsibility. Consider the project in its totality to make certain there are no gaps and/or overlaps in assigned tasks. Getting accountability from everyone in the ranks enables both you and your employees to do more, efficiently and profitably. Being responsible for the well being of your organization and your employees enables you to do more during challenging times—and during prosperous times as well. By encouraging managers to act more like owners, you create a legion of assistants to help you execute your responsibility as leader. Become a company of leaders. There are many advantages in working with “managers-owners.” They have the good of the company foremost in mind. They are interested in getting and keeping customers. They are motivated to do their job well—because they have pride in themselves and “their” company. The bottomline is that just as you do, they realize that “getting it done,” executing day in and day out is the way to do more with what they’ve got. In today’s marketplace with its financial challenges on the one hand and its incredible opportunities on the other hand, you have the chance to be innovative, be creative in what you do. Take a different approach to change your business situation. Find one new idea you haven’t used before to solve a problem. Find one new way to make it easier to do business with you. Find one new means to use your resources (including your people) better. Innovation and creativity don’t cost. Just the opposite, they save. Use the six ideas outlined to propel you and your company forward—doing more with what you’ve got. Let it be your strategy for tough times— your strategy for all times.