FINANCE: Small Business Owner Key to Recovery
Column by Patricia Kummer, CFP
There is plenty of blaming going on for the lack of growth in our fledging economy: Congress, the president, the Fed, Europe, China and a host of other possible culprits.
When I look back at previous recessions and all the gyrations that took place in monetary policy to help give us a jump start, the only thing that ever resulted in growth was something that came directly from the people: Consumers starting to consume again and businesses starting to do business again. You can only hold your breath for so long and the current limbo has gone on long enough.
Small business is the backbone of our country and, in particular, our state. Colorado attracts a high number of entrepreneurs based on the number of people who move here for the lifestyle and create a business to support themselves. Whatever the reason is that you are here, it is safe to assume you did not start a business to be stagnant through a three-year drought. You may be in luck, for things are about to change.
Based on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday numbers, consumers are tired of denying themselves and back to spending again. Early reports of retail sales showed a 6 percent increase over last year. This could be part of the catalyst needed to get things moving again.
Small businesses may need to take another look at how they can reinvent themselves for a more savvy consumer and the online shopper. There may be more creative ways to market and even hire more help. It may be time to stop using the poor economy as an excuse and start figuring out how to take advantage of the new opportunities that are bound to appear.
Here are some suggestions that may be a good fit depending on the type of business you are in.
- Beef up your website so potential consumers can find the information they need. Add research or comparison content to save them from searching elsewhere.
- Increase your networking among colleagues and even competitors. Find out how you are alike and how you are different so you can help one another and share ideas.
- Review your current business plan. It may be time to take a hard look at cash flow, margins and overhead. Perhaps more business on lower margins will still allow you to expand or capture more market share. Take a note from the retailers who discounted their product to get more traffic in the door.
- Consider hiring help with flex time or part time. You may be surprised how flexible new workers can be in this economy.
- Consider merging with another company to share overhead and streamline your process. This is the glue that may help you come out of a recession even stronger. Take a note from Wall Street where mergers and acquisitions are very popular during a recession.
- Complete a technology review. Perhaps there is new software that allows you to be more efficient and more competitive. Consider hiring tech talent as a consultant to keep your costs down.
- Review your benefits, especially health care. While premium increases are common each year, it may pay to shop different products such as individual coverage versus group or HSA (Health Savings Accounts) plans that help stretch the dollar and reduce taxes.
Whatever action you decide to take, now may be a good time. The businesses that are the backbone of this country will help pull us out of stagnation. The more we see successful stories, the more motivated we will be. Good luck.