2. Companies that have grown or thrived during a down turned economy have either found a niche in the market or, as we are, very customer service oriented and offer an exceptional value to our customers. In speaking with perspective client, I find that high pressure sales tactics on over priced items is how most of our competition operates. The consumer is becoming more educated and less likely to enter into a contract without getting several quotes. I prefer to deal with an educated or savvy customer because they are not fooled by a bogus two or three for one offer and refuse to be pressured into a buying decision. In order for most businesses to prosper in a bad economy, they must always remember that they are there for the customer and not vise versa.
James Barton Design Build Inc.
Apple Valley, Minn.
1. The biggest change that our company has seen is the inability for good qualified clients to secure financing. The banking industry has gone so far the other way that good people with good credit cannot get financing. We have stopped looking at the person and we are only looking at our house values. I talked with a local banker that is older and he stated that before the housing market boomed we use to look at the person and determine if they were a good credit risk. Now the under writers look only at house values and most of the time our personal history and our ability to repay the loan is considered minute in the decision making process. I personally believe the economy cannot come back until we starting moving money again and that starts with the banks and the feds. I money isnt in circulation the economy just cannot rebound. Its time to start looking at the person not just the numbers.
2. Well, for us 2011 was a record year for us both in gross sales but also net profits. What we found is there are fewer consumers spending right now but they are also being more careful when it comes to hiring a contractor. I believe that doing the right thing for the customer and actually running the business has allowed some to prosper while others struggle. You also have to be willing to make the unpopular decisions as a business owner for the sake of the company and put your personal feelings aside. If you truly love what you do and put your whole heart into it and surround yourself with good employees I don’t see how you can fail.
3. The biggest change that we have made is doing more work in-house that we use to hire companies to do. The biggest one being marketing, all of our marketing used to be outsourced now we do all preliminary work in house so we are only paying for those services that we are unable to accomplish. We didn’t want to decrease marketing but needed to cut the budget. We are able to do more marketing while bringing our costs down. The unfortunate thing for the economy is when companies do more with less that means other companies and other industries also feel the pressure and in the end it ends up with less people employed doing more work.
4. Yes, we actually decreased our staff to ensure we were as lean as we could be and still service our clients. I always had the feeling that we could ride out any downturn without affecting staff, welcome to the new normal. It was the hardest thing I ever did as I view my employees as family as does many small businesses. I take it very personal when I do something that affects the people that I feel responsible for. In the long run though it was the best thing for the company as our jobs have gotten smaller and we didn’t need such a large field staff but rather there was more pressure on our office staff as you have to sell more smaller jobs to do the same volume so we actually hired on the design side of the company.
5. It is true the saying that for every negative there is a posative. As some companies fail it allows others to take market share and grow. We have actually benefited by other companies downsizing by picking up some very good and qualified employees that were let go by our compeditors. It also alows us to showcase to potential clients the benefits of a stable company and why price should not be there only consideration when choosing a contractor. I think it has allowed us to really focus on what we do right and how to convey that to the consumer.
6. I think we are a little bit more cautious and are careful not to get too comfortable. When one job sells there is little time for celebration as you are onto the next one to ensure that you have work for the crews. What is funny is we are busy and things have changed but it seems to have brought everyone closer and everyone seems more willing to step in and help someone that may be behind even if it isn’t their job. Maybe years down the road we will all look back and say this was the best thing for all of us. Hard to see that side when we are all knee deep right now.