Tony Arnold: How to stay poised for opportunity in a tough economy Featured

12:30pm EDT January 3, 2013
Tony Arnold: How to stay poised for opportunity in a tough economy

We are barraged each day with opinions on the economy, jobs, health care costs and a host of other topics that can affect consumer confidence. Information is plentiful, but it is often contradictory, leaving people to decide who and what to believe.

As business leaders, you must face not only the realities of the business environment in which you operate but also the mindsets of employees and customers.

As the economy shows signs of improving, they look to see if you’ll react. But leaders often rely on others, and being fearful of making the wrong move, they wait for the percentages to improve and for more certainty to prevail. Even the optimists are finding it challenging to break out of the pack and do something bold.

Emergence depends on factors

The reality is that not every sector will enter or emerge from a recession at the same time. It is important that you understand your market and where your business is in the cycle. If you don’t already have a list of leading indicators, then you need to develop one.

Demand the best information from which to make decisions regarding your business. Rely on facts, trends and data to help make better and timelier decisions. Act quick, be decisive, and don’t be a naysayer. Focus on what can be done versus what can’t. Motivate and energize your organization and set goals to break out and show what can be accomplished.

Being an early mover can give your business a substantial competitive advantage. When you see signs of enduring strength, you need to lead changes in your organization to improve the mood and atmosphere, to build confidence that things are going to improve, and to implement the plans you have developed.

Time to take action

Here are some steps you can take:

? Leverage your competitive advantage

? Take price increases in key segments while locking in cost in others.

? Get aggressive in marketing and selling efforts

? Expand into new markets or launch new products

? Invest in training staff and hire high-quality people

? Make acquisitions of products or businesses

? Invest in incremental capacity to enable growth

? Create a contagious atmosphere where people can prosper and customers can enjoy themselves

These actions within a company become contagious and can foster creativity and risk-taking. When done effectively, these actions will position your business for success.

Setting the tone

The way you think and talk about your business, the market and the situation you face will set the tone for the organization. Your actions and words can be the difference between breaking out or being a laggard.

Do you focus on the problem or the solution?

Do you think about the opportunities to grow share or focus only on retaining customers?

Have you ever noticed that, during tough times, the sales gap between the A and B/C players widens? Their attitudes shift and you start hearing excuses from B and C players as to why they “can’t” get sales.

Even when things start to recover, the A players will distance themselves even more from the others. When you go on sales calls with the A players, they acknowledge the circumstance with the customer but will quickly focus on what should be done to make the best out of the situation.

As leaders, we can set this expectation across the organization. It’s a mindset and an attitude. Do your part to create an environment where people can be creative, develop plans and execute with passion so they can win.

 

Tony Arnold is founder and principal of Upfront Management, a St. Louis-based management and executive consulting firm. He can be reached at (314) 825-9525 or tony@upfrontmgmt.com.