The beginning of the new year always makes me think of the the start the Kentucky Derby. Some horses eagerly line up, others cajoled, and others are pushed into the starting gates. You can feel the energy and anticipation in the air as the final gate closes behind the last horse. Everyone holds their breath for a moment waiting for the bell to ring…
And they’re off!
The gates fly open and the horses launch down the track. Except this is 2009 and the track is muddy and sticky and slow and there is a dense fog that limits visibility. Did I forget to mention it was raining?
Yes, less than ideal conditions meet small businesses in the new year. Before you launch down the track of 2009, here are some ways to determine your racing strategy:
- Keenly listen to your customers: There is tremendous pain out in the marketplace right now. If you have a solution that saves money or increases revenue make sure your customers know by how much.
- Check out the competition, are they checking out? The good thing about bad economies is that it siphons off marginal players. If your competition is struggling, you may find opportunities to service their clients left in the lurch.
- Assess your own strength & weaknesses: what are the key challenges that you will face this year? Write them down and how specifically do you plan to address them. Then put numbers to it. Need to cut costs? Where are they going to come from and how much are you going to save? Need more cash to expand? What are the chances you’ll line up financing, and if you can’t where is the money going to come from?
What will every business owner need to ensure that they will make it to the finish line this year?
A plan—written out and quantified — and I don’t just mean a sales number– including costs and cash flow. Setting your strategy for the year is the first and most important step getting your 2009 race off to a good start.