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The Business of Running a Business – How to Get Ahead in a Down Market
I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak to staffing companies from across the country, representing companies of all sizes and staffing service lines. With few exceptions, the consensus is that the staffing industry is in a recession. So, the question becomes – how do you survive in times of economic downturn? Also, can you leverage it to move forward?
Here are the fundamental practices that all businesses should implement during market downturns. They have helped my recruiting software company and I believe they can help your business as well.
1) Be slim: Take this opportunity to review all your expenses. Donald Trump himself suggests that as an owner or manager you should be involved in every detail of your business. Look at everything from office rent to paper and printing costs. This is great practice in general, but in downturns it becomes more critical. With extremely thin margins for the recruiting industry, every opportunity for savings could be the difference between healthy profits and no profits.
2) Track your spending: Off-peak times are a great time to implement better and more efficient procedures for tracking your spending. As an owner/manager, it is essential to know: when to expect expenses, a breakdown of each cost and, most importantly, how they affect gross profit. Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
3) Refine your sales and marketing strategy: Good times mask bad sales and marketing procedures. When customers are knocking on your door, you may not need great sales staff to sell. But in tough times, you need every advantage you can get to find the nuggets of business. Evaluate each of your salespeople to determine their effectiveness. How are your marketing initiatives doing? How many leads (and subsequent sales) are you generating? If the numbers don’t make sense, make adjustments.
4) Staffing: The worst part of being an owner/manager is letting people go. I believe that ultimately we are judged for the positive impact we have had on the lives of OTHERS. Letting someone go is devastating. However, as the leader of your business, you have to make difficult decisions. You need to consider the rest of your employees and understand that you owe it to them to make the right choices for long-term success. If your whole business suffers, you will have more trouble than a few. Employees fall into three types of categories: good, bad, and in-between. I know it sounds obvious, but here’s the catch: most companies and managers can effectively identify the bad. These are the individuals who don’t even perform near expectations. The problem is dealing with intermediate employees. It’s the employees who do well – not great, but not bad either. Just okay. The hidden cost here is in the opportunity cost; if you didn’t have that OK person, couldn’t you hire another employee who has the potential to be a great? Compared to the great employee, how much does the OK employee cost you? In any healthy organization, there should be turnover. In a declining market, take this opportunity to reduce staff and eliminate those who are not bringing results.
5) Review operating procedures: I believe a bear market is a great time to re-evaluate how your business operates. What works and what doesn’t? Take the time to determine where your inefficiencies lie and make the necessary changes to address them. Assessing your technology is a key part of operational procedures. If you’re one of the many who are convinced that a bull market is a better time for a tech upgrade, consider the following. If your business is busier in a good market, isn’t your staff also busier? If this is indeed the case, how will you allocate the additional time needed to implement a new software system, implement new procedures, train staff, and perform adequate testing? Take advantage of the off-peak period to finally set up your systems and procedures. During this transition, you can apply the previous practice to reduce your staff based on your new operational procedures. It will become clear which employees accept the change, which contribute to creating better methods and which can easily learn a new system.
Implementing a new software system, coupled with stronger staff and increased operational efficiency during a bear market, will set you up to stand out and thrive as the market turns.
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