Life is what you make it, or so the saying goes. This principle can be applied to business as well.
There is no getting away from the difficulties many businesses have experienced as a result of the recent recession. Some businesses haven’t made it and others have been transformed radically just to stay afloat. Whilst the economy is now growing again (albeit tentatively), many are anticipating a challenging 2010 and with all the doom and gloom surrounding the forthcoming budget, it is easy to overlook the positives. What are they I hear you say? Well, that the recession could be the best thing that ever happened to your business.
There are a multitude of reasons why, but three of the best are as follows:
- We got lazy: A common response to questions about marketing, from many businesses prior to the downturn, was ‘we don’t do any marketing, we are already getting more work than we can handle.’ Whilst this is an excellent position to be in, for many it is no longer the case. This attitude often translated into inefficiencies elsewhere in the business, with resources being used wastefully, a lack of focus on profit margins, no strategy or planning culture and no urgency or hunger to improve and be better. Post-recession this attitude doesn’t fly. The downturn has forced many businesses to reassess their attitude and undertake rigorous analysis of the organisational practices and systems. Out have gone the unnecessary and inessential operations and in has come a new vigour and focus around efficiency, innovation, improvement and growth. The net result in this shift in attitude is a leaner, more efficient and innovative business, built on more stable foundations, going forward into the future. Surely a good thing?
- New opportunities: Referred to in a recent Independent article on SMEs, a Shell LiveWIRE survey found that 28% of business owners say the recession has actually ‘inspired them to refocus their business vision’ with 25% believing it has ‘challenged them to identify new areas of growth’. Touching on the innovation mentioned above, for many businesses the recession has prompted them to look carefully at the opportunities available to their organisation and ensure they exploit them fully. The much maligned SWOT analysis is the perfect tool to undertake this and we’d advise ever organisation to implement one at least annually. Innovation through necessity will result in some unexpected and profitable ventures for businesses; it will build long lasting relationships and unusual, yet profitable, strategic alliances and will inspire the creation of new and improved products and services for our clients and customers. This can’t be bad.
- Business evolution: The premise of ‘survival of the fittest’, proposed in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, is also applicable to businesses. We can’t avoid change; it is going on constantly around us. No matter how established a business is, it is always exposed to change. Sometimes this results in extinction i.e. Lehman Brothers and Woolworths and other times, to world domination i.e. Facebook, Google and Apple to name three. What is inescapable is that if you do not evolve with the times, you stand a very good chance of being replaced by a new and improved alternative. The recent downturn has removed many businesses from the marketplace, some of them may have been clients and suppliers, but others might have been competitors. Congratulations to you remaining businesses, you are the future and you can benefit from the growth that follows a downturn.
So if you don’t forget the valuable lessons learnt during this period, stay focused on your customers and satisfying their demands, don’t slip back into lazy business practices, ensure you embrace all the opportunities out there and put the fear of change aside, you may just find the recession was the best thing to happen to your business.