Friday, December 12, 2008 by Dave Blum

There’s so much being written these days about the economy and its hit on large companies — Lehman Brothers, Circuit City, the Big Three bail-out, etc.  But what about small businesses…companies like yours and mine?  How are we supposed to get by?

Here’s some advice I’ve been giving myself to help my team building business survive the big economic downturn:

1) Lower your prices — a little:  Okay, sure, conventional wisdom has is that you should probably never lower your prices.  After all, the cost of living is just going up, not down.  On the other hand, we’ve got a very unusual situation going on; clients need lower-cost options right now, at least for the time being.  So the advice I’m giving myself is: bend a little; serve your clients; ease off on your pricing a bit.  The time to raise fees will cycle back around…eventually.

2) Use the downtime productively (but not in a manic way):   There are at least two temptations in stressful times like this — a) surrender to depression and lie in bed all day, or b) rush around like a mad person, giving yourself an ulcer.  Myself, I prefer the middle path:  show up to work everyday (no sleeping in allowed), make a list of actions that can help my business in the short and the longterm, and keep checking things off the list.  I mean, how often do you have downtime like this to create new products and services, catch up on your filing, get to know your employees, or look at the big picture?  Panic doesn’t help anything…and in fact it mostly clouds the mind from doing it’s clearest thinking.  So stay calm–and keep plugging away.

3) Do some writing:  If you’re like me, there’s never enough time to write — blogs, articles, white papers, what have you.  Well folks, there’s time right now!   Writing helps you to establish and further your credibility, it draws hits to your website, and most of all, it helps you clarify your thinking about your field of expertise.  I also think it’s good to have a discipline, which leads me to my next point…

4) Find a discipline:  For most of us small business owners, we get used to the buzz of rushing around, spinning plates, juggling simultaneous responsibilities– never a spare moment.  And somehow that busy-ness feels like your business is moving ahead. In these quiet times, I’m finding it helpful to institute personal “projects” that let me feel like I’m making progress of some kind.  I’m going to the gym more, with the goal of losing 10 pounds by the end of the year.  (I’ll let you know how that one goes!); I’m trying to blog everyday, with the aim of getting the hitcount up to 100 visits a day.  I get up and meditate every morning. You get the idea.

5) Partner, partner, partner:  My wife, Jen, did a study in grad school of venture capital firms, trying to determine which ones performed best during down times.  Not surprisingly, the greatest successes were those VC firms which co-invested with other firms. These days, I try to spend at least a little time each day reaching out to other companies in my field, swapping team building ideas and seeing how we can help each other.  I’m also talking up my scavenger hunt ideas with museums, resorts, and big hotels, and sharing treasure hunt ideas with cruise ship and tour operators.  Heck, we’re all trying to attract the same clients; why not work together and co-promote?

What are you doing to survive the economy?  My readers would love to hear?