7 Tips for Surviving in Tough Economic Times
Beg for business without sounding needy, cut your monthly lease in half, eBay your inventory, advertise without spending and more.
There's no sugar-coating when the economy is tough.
An industry long-timer, Steve Hayes of SnapAV and former president of CEDIA has plenty of tips, specific to the home technology industry, on how integrators can endure through these tough economic times.
Here, he presents 7 tips for survival.
Don’t Just "Please" Your Clients
Learn the difference between pleasing a customer and servicing a customer. Customers actually want to be serviced rather than pleased. Servicing means that you do what you promised, at the price you quoted and when you said it was going to get done. Pleasing is based in telling people what you think they want to hear.
The difference is found in obtaining referrals, which is the secret to surviving in tough economic times. Focus on delivering exactly what you promise; telling your customers the WHOLE truth and then once the job is completed, asking for a referral.
Make Tough Personnel Decisions
Be prepared to make hard decisions before you start losing money — I realize that you are a nice person and you don’t want to hurt those who work for you. But realizing early that the business is dropping below what you currently are staffed up to is critical.
An option is to reduce hours for everyone. Another, harder option is to let people go. Once the need is realized, focus on the survival of your business. I know this sounds heartless and cold, but what is the end game that you desire most — to be liked, or to still be in business? Tough economy equals tough choices.
Trim Budget, Make Sacrifices
Look at all of your expenses and focus on what is feeding you today. Marketing, cell phones, pagers, vehicle leases and expense accounts are all fun to have, but are they required for the survival of your business? How much money could you save each month? Since cash flow is what will keep your doors open, work to find cash anywhere you can – I believe everything should be up for evaluation at this point. Be critical, make decisions early and figure out how to shave 10-20 percent off of your operating expenses.
Make Customer Service King
Since you are likely competing with a big box retailer for this business (even if you don’t realize it yet) stress your customer service and ask clients to consider buying locally to support the little guy.
Don’t worry. I believe that you can even figure out a way to "beg" for business without sounding too needy. Practice in front of a mirror … it will take some getting used to.
Advertise without Spending Money
Press Releases work best for this. Spend a little time each weekend coming up with some story you can provide to the local media. Become the local HDTV expert, report on trade shows and new technology or write a technology column for the local newspaper – figure out some way to get your name out there.
Renegotiate Your Lease
Most commercial landlords are dreading loosing tenants in today’s economy, so hint that he might loose you unless you are provided with concessions. Try to cut your monthly lease in half. You might need to make promises once the economy recovers, but that’s OK because at this point it is about making it through this economic dip.
eBay Your Inventory
You know all that stuff in the back room or garage you’ve been saving for "someday"? If a customer isn’t willing to pay for it, then you don’t need it — whatever it is.