Reflection time Featured

12:19pm EDT June 22, 2004
All signs point to an economic recovery that's trying to take the next step from lumbering forward to smoothly humming along.

Over the past several months, thousands of new jobs have been created, and the number of CEOs and executives who say they're hiring or spending money again continues to climb.

Whatever happens in November's election for president, it's a pretty sure bet that, come 2005, the U.S. economy will be healthy once again. It's imperative, then, to begin turning your sights from today's corporate survival to tomorrow's potential opportunities and begin to develop strategies to expand.

There are numerous issues to consider. Here are two.

Re-evaluate relationships

Now is the time to reward vendors and customers who stuck with you and worked with you through the tough times. That doesn't need to translate into a new hard cost just when your company's finally staring at black ink again.

Think simple. Consider a one-time or period-of-time discount. Knocking off 10 percent or even 20 percent on your goods and/or services for a month, a shipment or a designated period can go a long way toward strengthening your business relationship and thanking the vendor for its continued support.

Conversely, if you felt taken advantage of by a stronger business partner that seized the opportunity to collect higher fees, increase interest payments or demand lower rates, it's time to repay the favor and seek out more favorable relationships with more ethical partners.

Look to the future

Dust off the obsolete strategic plan you commissioned during the go-go '90s. Then toss it in the trash can and start from scratch.

Unless you were one of the very few businesses that benefited from the battered economy -- such as mortgage brokers, who reaped the rewards of miniscule interest rates and those flooding their offices to refinance -- odds are your business operates drastically differently now than it did in 2001.

You're probably running a leaner operation, with fewer employees and tighter fiscal controls. And, depending on your industry, your prospective customer base may have changed or even shrunk.

Either way, you'll need to take a hard look at your company, its resources and its competencies, and consider pursuing new opportunities you hadn't dreamed of three years ago.