Surviving the Struggle

“I cannot sell in this economy.” “People are nervous and not calling our office.” “I can’t force people to buy from me.” Many companies are experiencing their darkest reality in this down economy that features a decline in the scope and number of projects. For those companies that did not invest in their personnel, education or contingency planning for the recent turmoil in the financial markets — including the Dow dropping almost 4,000 points within a few months — have come to a rude awakening. Those companies will have a hard time recovering by the second quarter of 2009, if they recover at all.

Few business owners and financial analysts could have predicted the recent perfect storm of events including the sub-prime mortgage debacle, tightening of the credit markets and the stock market’s sudden slide. As if that weren’t bad enough, remodelers and design/build professionals are heading into the holiday slowdown. In the previous issue I mentioned that we, as a profession, must relax and stay the course and be ready to serve American homeowners. The fact is they will always need to build, maintain, rebuild and remodel their homes. After all, shelter is a basic human necessity.

Whining about your sales, complaining about how the phone doesn’t ring and throwing darts at Washington politicians does not change anything. It might make you feel good for a moment or two, but you are still faced with a difficult financial challenge that requires your full attention. You must answer some questions: How do I get myself out of this mess? What do I need to do immediately and long term? Who can help me? How much time do I have?

Your company size will help determine which course of action you will need to take. For larger companies it may mean a few trips to the board room to decide who is pulling their weight and providing for the welfare of the company. Down-sizing is never a popular idea with employers and employees, but it is a necessary part of business maintenance. The big idea here is to find the A-team for your company that can find your potential customers, help them buy from your company and produce projects that your company needs to sustain its financial security.

Small and mid-size companies will need to rethink the types of projects they usually take on and how to keep valuable work crews busy without them having to work on the owner’s house. Keep in mind the types of projects that you received when you started. Generally when Americans are faced with an economic slowdown, we start to re-evaluate our current position in the marketplace. This is a good practice for businesses as well. What can we do differently to avoid this from happening again? Should we redefine our company by not taking on projects over a certain dollar amount? Finally, ask yourself if your company will emerge as one that will focus on personal growth and development. Perhaps your company will focus on servicing homeowners who will not be affected by a down economy?

There will be many choices to make before 2009 arrives. The stakes are high and the pressure is mounting daily. Take charge, act now and keep moving. Seek help from others who have weathered past financial storms and lived to tell about them. Plan your work to navigate through these uncertain times. This is the time to reinvest in you, your company and your future. You may need to swallow your pride and reach out to help yourself and the people in your life by making drastic changes. This is not a pep talk and it is not a motivational speech designed to make you a better person. This is tough love. Only you can help you.