Eagle’s Wings

We’ve all heard the phrase, “on the wings of eagles.” But what does this mean?

Few are aware of the fact that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks. The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come.When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages, below the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.Think about how appropriate that picture is in today’s business climate. Are we not facing a variety of storms? -Economic storms, political storms, sociological storms and even cultural storms? Continued war, the burst of the dot-com bubble, corporate and political misconduct, downsizing and corporate cutbacks dominate local and national newspaper headlines. How is this affecting your business or your ability to maintain and grow your business?Let’s face it, many of today’s small business owners started their businesses amid economic prosperity and have yet to experience such raging storms. With this in mind, I’d like to propose some strategies that can help all of us weather the storms and rise above the clouds not unlike the eagle.

  1. Ignore the Hype – First and foremost, experts say, don’t panic. It’s important not to buy into the hype but to be realistic about our business environment. For me that means staying away from the TV news, and the local papers. They are filled with doom, gloom and dread and short on facts or suggestions for improvement. Instead I read the Wall Street Journal, the On-line agencies, Fast Company, Business Week, Kiplinger’s and other business publications.
  2. Diversify – According to the Small Business Administration, Southern California, because of its diversity, is well-poised to weather economic storms. Other good news is that even though Southern California is experiencing a slowdown, the economy is still growing, just at a much slower rate. “It’s like we were going down the highway at 80 miles per hour and now we’re going about 30,” I heard a colleague say recently. “It feels pretty darn slow, but the fact is, we’re still growing.” So think about what you can do to diversify. What new markets can you address? What new products or services can you begin to test? What new areas of service can you begin to employ?
  3. Think Strategically – To strategically outwit economic storms I recommend that small businesses incorporate an economic outlook into their strategic plan. Each company must examine its strategic focus and ensure that it’s pointed in a compatible direction with the economy. While companies often have the strategic answers they need, it is sometimes difficult for small business owners to be objective. A consultant can help companies examine and validate their strategic focus in relation to the economy. Step two, is for small business owners to focus on managing the business. Small companies often grow at a rapid rate and spend most of their time focusing on fulfilling customer’s needs instead of managing the business. Small business owners should manage the company’s financial statements, look for things that are out of line, make sure there is no excessive waste and ensure correct company procedures are being followed. Entrepreneurs are probably the worst offenders in becoming too focused on the marketplace and not focused enough on management. Often they need to either step back and take a hard look, or empower someone else to inspect the management process for them.
  4. Be Proactive – Weathering storms also requires having safeguards in place prior to the start of hard times. For example, instead of waiting until you need cash, a line of credit or other resources, have these items in place prior to the start of a storm. Make certain your human and financial resources are intact at all times – in good times as well as bad. Make sure you save money out of your business and put your credit line in place while times are good, then you’ll have these resources in the event that you lose a key client or the economy slows down. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s OK to have a niche, but it’s important to not be so specialized that if one area of your business gets slow, you can’t survive. If a business has one client that represents more than 30 percent of the company’s revenue, that company is vulnerable and needs to work on gaining additional clients.
  5. Establish Budgets and a Contingency Plan – I am continually shocked at the number of businesses that are operating without any type of budgeting contingency plan. Or they may have budgets but they rarely adhere to them. When times get a little tough many of these entrepreneurs respond by slashing the highest expenditures. When reducing expenditures, small business owners shouldn’t blindly cut budgets such as marketing and advertising. Instead, review the budgets for these activities and try to determine return on investment. These may be the very activities that will keep you alive in a storm!
  6. Build Relationships – Relationships with customers are critical at all times, but particularly during slow economic times. During these times, everyone is looking to reduce expenses, so your customers may be looking to other suppliers. Be prepared to justify the cost of your products and services by being able to explain the benefits as opposed to the features of your products and services. Create loyalty by providing extras that don’t really cost you more, but give the customer more. On the plus side, such storms often result in new business opportunities, particularly in the area of outsourcing. With larger businesses downsizing, outsourcing may become a more attractive alternative. Small businesses may find themselves in position to provide a product or service to a larger entity. In addition to building relationships with existing and new customers, building peer and colleague relationships is important. You should always have a network of peers and colleagues in place so you can draw on their resources and expertise. Get these networks in place when times are good. Work as smart when things are good as when things are bad, and you’ll be ready when the storm breaks out.

In short, unstable times create opportunity. Remember you are not alone. Your competitors are also going through this downturn. Spend more time and be willing to invest in ways that you can differentiate yourself externally as well as manage your internal business more effectively and you will get the jump on your competition. In this way, you, like the eagle, will be able to ride the trade-winds as you soar above the raging storm below.

Posted in Business Planning, Uncategorized.

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