How to Survive in a Bad Economy

By: Kim Harrison, an EO Philadelphia member, and founder and CEO of Focus Foward, LLC

Everyone knows that times have been tough. That sentiment is not news to any entrepreneur looking to grow a company. The economy has been used as a reason to explain away a whole host of failures, but the truth is, as long as there is volatility and movement, the opportunity to make a profit exists. As firms go under and competition thins, smart leaders grab market share. The question every entrepreneur should ask themselves is, “How do I use this economy to my advantage?” Here are some fundamental principles of success I follow in my businesses:

You Only Make One First Impression

Research has shown that many people draw conclusions in less than four seconds. When it comes to your business and how others perceive it, clothes count. Marketing materials count. Spelling counts. In fact, everything counts as you’re out there trying to win and keep business. In my experience, it’s the tiny mistakes and misunderstandings early on in a client relationship that set the tone forever. Where is your client’s first impression coming from? Is it the receptionist who takes the calls, your website or—gasp—new hires? I make it a point to assess my team every week and ensure that everyone has the tools they need to serve as ambassadors of my business. In a down economy, every interaction is gold and first impressions are priceless.

Great Service Trumps Everything

One of the best ways you can stand out from your competitors is to elevate your customer service. When I want to make the most memorable impact with my clients, I ask myself: Where was the last place that I went to shop that I couldn’t wait to return? What made that experience so great? I then dig through the answers and pull out any knowledge that I could readily apply to my own company. They say mimicry is flattery, and when it comes to business, that’s true if you can take what already works and adapt it to your business model. Ultimately, people work with people they like, and they like companies that they can trust. A business that can accomplish these things will succeed no matter the economy.

Innovate with New Offerings

To increase revenues, we create new product lines. It may sound ridiculous in a down economy, but I’ve learned that the more options clients have, the more chances for success. I make it a point to figure out what similar products my clients need to buy that are natural extensions of our core business, and start providing them. We keep adding to our product lines at an increasing rate, because we know that if we’re not one step ahead of the competition, we’ll be one step behind. When it comes to excelling despite the economy, innovation is king.

Culture is Everything

Having a great team goes a long way to ensuring that whatever door a client enters, your staff is doing their part to secure a future relationship. To create a culture of success in our organization, we make it a point to celebrate every success, no matter how big or small. We created a “good news” board and placed it in the employee kitchen for all to see, we praise those who praise clients and we instituted monetary awards for team members whom clients call out as impressive. Also, we make all goals public and firm wide, so that every team member is aware of how their role matters.

Kim Harrison is the founder and CEO of Focus Forward, LLC, and Panel Direct. Focus Forward specializes in focus group recruitment, while Panel Direct provides US-based survey panels for research that requires a quantitative approach. Fun fact: Kim is an avid traveler, seriously dedicated shopper and plays a mean game of Texas Hold ’Em.

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