How Some Companies Grow in Good Times and Still Grow In Bad Times.

by Bill Purdin

When all is said and done, the secret is simple. As Henry R. Luce put it, “Business…is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.” Plus, success is always built on doing more than you need to do before you’re asked to do it, not because you’re asked to do it — but because you want to do it. That’s great business. If you spend the next twenty years running calculations of cycles in economics, you will miss the greatest joy of all: satisfying customers and selling services and products that people really want. But even more importantly, you’ll miss the reason you went into business in the first place: to create a market for your company and make it grow and grow.

Adversity is not adversity, after all, is it? When others are full of fear and pulling in their horns, companies that grow regardless of the whims of the market, recognize the opening that always presents itself when competitors become conservative. When others reduce productivity, increase yours; even if the increases are minor, their impact is doubled. When others worry about inflation, develop deals for your best customers that genuinely increase their profits and maneuverability. They will reward you with increased orders and confidence. While others worry about competitors, become more competitive, again, even if only in small ways. When others cut back on marketing and sales efforts, increase yours. You will leap into a position of leadership in all media and marketing resources. Increase your PR efforts in bad times. It will pay off. Increase your selling efforts across the board; hold your sales staff up as the heroes of the company, because they are. When others are fearful, be brave by having confidence in your strengths.

It is quite clear that all economic downturns are short-term in nature, even though they often appear to be permanent. Long-term growth is as certain as the population dynamic. We all know it’s true. You can become preoccupied with hold profit margins, or, as we recommend, become and stay preoccupied with customer satisfaction and with selling what potential customers are looking for. Profit margins vary in too many ways to precalculate successfully. Every order or project has within it factors that affect the satisfaction of the client. Happy clients pay faster, affecting profit margins. Unhappy clients ask for redos and return things, they take up more service time, and in the end they pay slower. Their lack of confidence slows everything down. Trying to calculate business futures by profit margins is like planning a trip based on engine wear. It’s just stupid and wrong-headed. Shortsighted planning with emphasis on assumed outcomes rather than the process itself is why companies don’t grow in changing market environments. They are always unprepared for the unknown. But, everything is really an unknown, isn’t it? So, like soldiers in a foreign land, good businessmen build a preparedness for the unexpected by building winning attitudes, systems, and alternatives.

We have all been told that spending less and selling more is the key to profits. Let’s look at that a little closer. Time is money, they say. But both are valuable. Which one is more valuable? Time is and here’s why. Money is accumulated wealth: a result. Time is what we expend in getting it. So when you talk about “spending less” as the first of two guaranteed ways to grow in good times and bad, define it correctly. Spend less time on wasting time. Make time count. Tell your people that any time spent worrying about the future insures a double pain: worrying hurts and it makes the future darker. The only way to spend time at work is on positive steps towards increasing customer satisfaction. Spend less time with margin or unprofitable customers, not by abandoning them and thereby proving they were right to doubt you, but by improving their trust, giving them more than they asked for, and giving it to them on time. Dispatch is one of the greatest attributes a business can have. If you really want to spend less, give greater dispatch to your customers. They will immediately reward you with more business.

Selling more is the second part of the success-no-matter-what equation. But what are you selling? And, how are you selling it? Are you teaching your customers how to use what they have already bought longer and more effectively? They will thank you. Are you assuring them and reassuring them (selling them on the concept) that you will be extremely grateful if they let you know of any problems or of any way the things you sell them can be improved or replaced? Do they believe that you consider such information a great favor? And, importantly, are you constantly asking them if there is any product or service that they would like you to provide that currently you do not offer? And, are you selling the idea that doing business with you means doing business with a leader, not in quantity, but a leader in quality?

Your customers know they pay for quality, be not afraid. But your best customers know that bad quality costs a whole lot more. The greatest cost (and the greatest potential savings) is in wasted time. Time is money. Inspire your employees that wasting time arguing with customers and with each other is affecting the bottom line. Wasting time over selling, or redoing badly done projects is the death knell. Teach them to work forward and look forward. Business is a process of next things not past things. Dwell in the future whatever it is.

Here are the rules for growing your business in good times and bad:

1. Always tell the truth. Abraham Lincoln said you can tell a man who always tells the truth because sometimes he says things that don’t make him look great.
2. Do the right thing not the easy thing. You almost always know what this is by asking yourself, “If I were the client what would I want?”
3. Remember that all success is teamwork. If your company is a success it is not a testament to your genius in all things. It is a testament to your employees and your customers. Your job is to make sure they know it.
4. A rising tide lifts all boats. You get nowhere pulling others down. No matter how difficult or obstinate an employee or a customer is, your job is to boost them up. That’s leadership and that’s vision. Forget it, and indulge your worst propensities, at your own peril.
5. Enjoy your work. Others will enjoy it too. Customers love to see you happy and enthusiastic and so do your employees. What’s not to be happy about? If you can find reasons, you have fallen. If you see opportunities, you are leading.
6. Work hard because you want to. Find joy in satisfying others. Whether you work four hours today or 16 hours tomorrow will not matter. Why you work is all that matters.
7. Be brave and get the facts. There is always a moment in emergencies and in decision-making when fear rears its head. But remember, the future is bright so we must be brave in the face of trouble and getting the facts together before jumping to conclusions will really help a lot. The conclusions we jump to are always the easy ones. See rule #2.
8. A truly great company has no competitors and has no need for accolades and awards. Truly great companies know exactly what they are doing and gauge their success by the success of their customers and their employees.
9. Expect success. Plan carefully how you are going to use it to further the goals of satisfying your customers and employees. When you start to think of how your success will enrich you, you have fallen.
10. Make your own rules. If you have gotten this far, then you know what we mean. In a world of progressive, inventive, optimistic, successful, happy customers and employees, the world is yours. You are making history in your field or industry. You’ve proven that putting others first is the engine of profitability and success. You are now trusting enough and trusted enough to be truly innovative.

So, who cares about good times or bad?

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1. An advertising agency that has this view is essential.
2. Consistency in advertising is crucial, so increase your budget modestly, don’t cut it in downturns.
3. Advertisers who don’t cut their budget held a 53% margin of sales over their advertising cutting competitors last year.
4. Sales calls together with advertising is a winning combination year in and year out, regardless of industry or service, regardless of economic environment.
5. It isn’t our view that your company’s prosperity hangs on the amount of advertising you do, but a company’s leadership recognition that advertising is more than an expendible support system is vital. It reaches a far broader audience than personal contact ever can. It is dynamic and versatile, presenting your company in a controlled and systemic way, rather than via a personality. It can be jam-packed with reliable and replicative information. It is a powerful tool and instrument of projecting your company’s strengths and culture. The better your advertising is, the easier all of your goals will be to reach.


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