The news on the economy is bad. Unemployment figures, credit woes and stock prices are all continuing to tell the tale of our national (and even worldwide) economy. I am not going to play the optimist here; times are tough. But within any tough time, there are still opportunities for those willing to put themselves out there.
One of the things that I have noticed lately is that companies are looking at the expense side of their business. In bad times, companies always look to the expense side. That is why we see massive layoffs at the big companies. That is also why product and service contracts are being rebid at a huge rate.
An entrepreneurial company should now be looking to increase revenue by developing clearly defined programs that will look to take advantage of this expense focus.
We know that when the big companies lay off staff, they always cut more than they should. The common thought is that they go beyond cutting fat to cutting muscle. Once some muscle is gone, in order to provide their products and services, they will need to go outside to get these tasks done. The big companies look at paying for subcontractors as an advantage — no payroll taxes, no insurance, only pay when I need them. Small companies can use this to their advantage. Find a way to network your way into these companies — LinkedIn, recommendations from service providers, friends and family. Demonstrate your expertise and get to work showing the big guys your stuff.
The big companies (and lots of smaller ones as well) are also looking at rebidding contracts. Long time relationships mean less today than the bottom line. I know of several cases where large suppliers that have a long history of working with customers are being told that the products are going out for rebid. This is an opportunity for a smaller company, who can deliver better, faster, cheaper and more flexibly, to get into companies that were previously seen as locked down by the major supplier.
For the entrepreneur, this is not the time to huddle in your office and play the woe is me game. This is the time to ratchet up your marketing — not necessarily in spending, but in execution. Make sure that your story is compelling and then:
- Take a contact out to coffee every day.
- Go to those networking events. Don’t be the card collector. Try to make a small number of meaningful contacts and be sure to follow-up in a timely manner with a personalized note or call.
- Join LinkedIn or other social networking sites. Again, not to just join and collect contacts, but to understand how your network can help you find new prospects.
- Ask someone to introduce you to their biggest client or supplier.
- Take every opportunity to tell your story. Find any speaking engagement you can.
I don’t know when this economy will turn around. But I do know that playing the victim will not get you where you want to be. And the opportunities are out there.