Bad times can be good for business

A client recently told me “The best thing that could have happened to my business was to have a bad year.” Jack explained how his business had enjoyed steady, but modest, growth for decades. No big fluctuations. No big worries. They just showed up day-to-day, did the same thing year-after-year, and got the same results. Then, for no clearly apparent reason, the business began to sputter, choke and slowdown.

It took a while for reality to sink in. Jack spent most of the year tinkering with the business, confident it would turn around with the old tried and true methods. When cash flow started getting tight, it was apparent the “hiccup” was actually the beginning of a downward trend. Something had to be done, but what?

If the declined in sales had been for any single reason, Jack would have made the corrective adjustment instantly, but it was a combination of factors that was taking its toll on his business. The factors were elusive and hard to pin point. Was it a matter of quality or service? Did he have the right people doing the right jobs? Was there a new competitor out there? Was the Internet impacting his sales?

Jack realized he had to re-evaluate everything from the ground up. He solicited input from his customers and had brainstorming sessions with employees. He brought in an outside consultant to give him a fresh, impartial perspective and to introduce new ideas. He challenged all his old assumptions and made dramatic changes.

Jack’s business is healthy again now, but he was shrewd enough to know that “change” is difficult. If left to his own devices, he would have gravitated back to what he was used to. By bringing customers, employees and consultants into the process, he was able to get a clearer picture of his challenges and was equipped with more effective solutions.

Businesses shouldn’t wait until troubled times before they re-evaluate. A tune-up today will help you avoid a breakdown tomorrow.

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