Five strategies for growing your business in a slow economy


Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting Inc. Photo by Light Design Photography

By Jenny Schade, Guest Columnist

The recession is over, but many small businesses continue to struggle to get back on their feet.   High unemployment rates and restricted cash flow have delayed their rebound, leading many to ask, When is the economic recovery going to hit here?

Don t wait for the economic recovery to knock on your door.   It critical to take action and make your own success. Here are five essentials to ensure that your business is at the forefront of the economic recovery.

1. Think big

If you re just focusing on surviving, you re missing out on the big picture of what you can accomplish if you set your sights high.

This reminds me of the old story of two bricklayers working side by side, each adding layers to a wall.   A bystander asks each one what he is working on. One replies, I m building a wall.   The other explains, I m building a cathedral.

Focus on your cathedral. Think big.

2. Know what you’re really selling

The product or service you provide might be only one aspect of the value you offer to customers, but consider what else you do that impacts your clients and improves their condition.

For example, a colleague who trains executives to make better presentations received the following feedback from a client: Actually, I can go to numerous sources to get help with presentations “ and for less money, too.   What I value about your offering is that you have helped me to have a greater sense of ˜executive presence.’   Thanks to your coaching, I confidently enter a room and others notice me right away.   Now that invaluable!

Try asking your customers what they value about what you do. This is the value you should be merchandising to your customers.

3. Raise your visibility

If you ve cut back on marketing due to budget constraints, reverse course immediately. If you think the business environment is challenging now, just wait until your competitors sense an economic upturn. Companies will  come out of the woodwork to compete for business. Now is the time to ramp up your marketing and distinguish your organization.

4. Become a rock star

During tough times, it more important than ever to develop your skills.

Instead of focusing on improving a weakness, invest in enhancing a current strength.   After all, if you re already proficient in an area, just think how you will stand out with some good coaching.

During each of the past two years, I hired a writing coach even though I find writing to be one of my strengths, am paid by clients to write regularly and consider myself to be a very good coach. This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I ve ever had and really helped improve my writing.   In fact, the editor at an international online magazine for which I write a bi-monthly column commented on my improvement.

5. Stretch out of your comfort zone

I ve noticed an interesting trend in management consulting.   Employees who have a wide variety of experiences are most likely to survive the job cuts and even thrive in the midst of the turmoil.   It makes sense that if you have experience working in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in the consumer packaged goods business, you re twice as marketable.

The economy may be challenging, but you can make your own business an exception to the doldrums.

Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting Inc., a firm that helps organizations build leading brands and efficiently attract and motivate employees and customers. Schade also publishes the JRS Newsletter.