How to Get the Results You Want!

One of the greatest enemies of getting the results you want is disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. Look at the image on the left.

What do you see?  Disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. When operating in this mode, there’s lots of activity, but little is accomplished.

To get the results you want, those assets and actions have to be aligned and directed, like the image on the right. Look at the strength and power these two elements add.

Entrepreneurs tend to have lots of good ideas, usually function at high energy and are often impulsive. But what has the potential for a solid business often falls apart for lack of organization, structure, focus and direction. Actions are frequently taken haphazardly and sporadic without a goal or a plan.

The objective is to align assets and actions so they all go in the same direction – toward your goals. The sequence of steps is to identify and organize your assets (the value you provide to the marketplace), create a clear message and then strategically plan and take calculated, directed actions designed to lead to your goals.

In order to get the Results you want, you must align your Goals, your Strategy, your Plan and your Actions. Actions implement the Plan, which carries out the Strategy, which leads to your Goals. Therefore, Actions ultimately should lead to Goals. To the extent that Results match Goals, your Actions have been on-target and successful.

Answer the following questions to begin organizing and structuring a framework that will get you on track toward producing the Results you want.

Goals:

What results do you want from your efforts?

Total Revenue?

Sell X Number of products/services?

Generate X% revenue from New Market?

Strategy:

How do you plan to achieve your goals?

Identify and develop an untapped market?

Redefine our brand for New Market?

Plan:

What are the specific tasks to be accomplished? Who is responsible? When does each need to be done?

Actions:

When do you need to start and complete these tasks?  What is the sequence? What is the timeframe for each?

Results:

What are the measurable outcomes from your Plan and Actions?

Compare actual Total Revenue to Revenue Goal

Compare actual Number of products/services sold by target date to Product Goal.

Compare actual percent of Total Revenue from New Market

How close are the Results to the Goals? What succeeded; what didn’t? Each time you repeat the process, you get better at producing the Results you want.

Let’s look at a case in point.

With a background in retail merchandising, Jennifer started her business by purchasing quality overruns from women’s plus size manufacturers and opened a small store near another retailer of plus size clothing. Her intent was to capture some of the traffic attracted by the other store. She took out expensive ads in local papers and the yellow pages, but after six months still wasn’t getting the traffic or the sales she had hoped for. She wasn’t even covering her expenses. She knew she had a product that was needed and desired by her target market; she just wasn’t bringing in enough business.

Of course, Jennifer didn’t really have Goals, a Strategy or a Plan. Her actions were sporadic and without research. She was feeling very frustrated and considering giving up when she made the decision to organize her thinking and focus her actions.

To help organize her thinking she created a Market Research campaign and learned where and how her target market could be reached. Based on this research she created a marketing campaign that included specific, measurable Goals, a Strategy and Plan and specific Actions to carry out the Plan. Here is an excerpted picture of her process.

Goals: (for one year period)

1 – $2,500,000 in revenue

2 – A customer database of 10,000 and 20,000 transactions at an average sale of $125.

Strategy (excerpt from Marketing Plan)

1 a)  Create incentive for existing customers to bring or refer a friend.

   b)  Add online catalog.

2 a)  Hold fashion show and invite the press.

   b)  Capture customer info, including e-mail address and send monthly promos.

Plan:

1 a)  Offer high end accessory item for one referral, 10% discount on merchandise for second referral.

   b)  Use existing online catalog service and start with top 20% of items in each category (to test online market)

2 a)  Select show date, assign coordinator and write plan for show (to include online show).

   b)  Offer raffle of high end accessory in exchange for attendee/visitor info.

Actions:

1 a) Jennifer selected incentive item, ordered enough for marketing purposes, wrote and sent an introductory promotion to a targeted e-mailing list and existing customers. The incentive promotion was added to all marketing materials and promo coupons.

   b)  Jennifer directed research to find a suitable online catalog. Upon selection, she hired a web designer to design the page layout and a developer to set up the shopping cart and manage the site.

2  a)  Jennifer assigned the Assistant Manager the job of coordinating the fashion show, which took place in the early Spring, prior to the Easter Holiday. The show plan included both an in-store and online fashion show of featured items.

   b)  Coordinator developed a data gathering form and had it created in print (for in-store) and online. Database was updated to capture info being gathered.

Results:

1 a) Total revenue the first year was just under $2,000,000. (80% of Goal)

   b) Total number of customers in the database was 9,800 (98% of Goal) with 15,500 transactions (78% of Goal) and average sale of $129. (103% of Goal)

2 a) The fashion shows (using customers as models) received some media attention and produced 380 transactions at an average sale of $115.. A fall fashion show using the same format produced 300 transactions at an average sale of $128.

   b) E-mail promotions using the customer database attracted increased web traffic to the catalog. 60,000 visitors produced 1,650 transactions and 280 new customers. 11% of revenue came from online sales.

Conclusions:

Revenue results were 80% of Goal. Part of the shortfall was attributed to the fact that the online catalog took longer to develop than planned. Catalog revenue (11%) was less than expected. Average sale tended to be very close to target, so this can be used as a good gauge for future revenue projections. With early positive results from the online catalog, expansion of the catalog items and the overall product line should offer potential for additional revenue.

Jennifer was able to get her business on a solid footing with strategies and plans that she knew could produce the Results she wanted.

You, too, can organize your thinking and focus your actions to get the Results you want. Let’s schedule a complimentary phone conversation to talk about your business, your situation and what you’d like to accomplish.

Seeking Buried Treasure

Business treasure chestHistory and myth abound on the many buried treasures to be found deep in the seas of the planet. If you knew you were on a course that would take you close to where treasure is supposedly buried, would you try to find it? You probably would not because you have a mission to fulfill. But I would encourage you to pursue it because it could be the key to future fortune.

The buried treasure I suggest entrepreneurs seek is their own “buried” personal assets, and apply them to their business. Not only do I offer ways to identify skills, passions, talents and personality, I offer techniques to uncover qualities that may have been put under wraps because they weren’t acceptable, weren’t good enough or they wouldn’t provide a livelihood. The reward of recovering and putting our buried treasure to good use is life becomes much more fun and success comes with minimal struggle.

The first step is to recognize and assess our personal assets. Some of these are easy to find, but most of us have assets we’ve long forgotten. These are the “buried treasures” that will pop to the surface with a little prodding. Directed prodding is what I do. The problem with not retrieving these treasures is they will rear up their wayward heads somewhere down the road to stop us from having what we want. We must not only identify, we must claim and honor our assets or they will haunt us until we do.

The approach I take is designed to clear away old cobwebs before trying to move forward. Most of us have behaviors that were developed in childhood because they produced an acceptable result out of a state of chaos. Unfortunately, these are defense mechanisms – reactive, not proactive. They don’t serve us very well in realizing success and happiness. While not delving into analysis, I do suggest revisiting your childhood from both a negative and positive perspective. Who we really are can often be seen clearer if we reflect on early passions, desires and dreams.

Identifying

Identifying all our assets means knowing who we are, who we aren’t, who we’ve tried to be and failed and who we’d like to become –and why. Because the socialization process puts early restrictions on our personal natures, our strongest assets often get pushed aside and eventually buried deep inside. Sadly, this can set off a series of self-sabotaging behaviors because we’re not happy doing what we’re doing. I know this because I’ve done it to myself. In the early ‘90s I held a respected senior management position in a health care center, but because I hated it so much and couldn’t find my way out, I sabotaged myself by underperforming. That’s bad news, especially in times of downsizing.

I struggled for a while, glad to be free, but not clear about what to do. In seeking my way, I put myself through a self-assessment that wasn’t as refined as what I do now with clients but it was extremely helpful in reaching a clear decision about the road ahead.

It included what’s known as 360 degree feedback. I asked those who knew me well (including family members) what they saw as my strengths and weaknesses. I read about other recall techniques that helped bring to the forefront long forgotten memories of excitement, pleasure and satisfaction. I still use some of these techniques now and find them exceptionally effective in helping clients identify key assets they might not ever see on their own. I learned that identifying, claiming and honoring these assets can make all the difference in the world in how successfully we travel down our chosen path.

Claiming

Identifying our personal assets (along with recovering our buried treasure) is step #1. Claiming is step #2. Claiming means we consciously acknowledge all our assets.  We look at the value of each to ourselves, to our personal universe and our target market. Guided brainstorming helps to select and prioritize each asset. We may have assets we’ve previously thought of as barriers, but when evaluated in a new context they may be recast in leading or supporting roles.

I have a client who spent her early adult years traveling the world and hadn’t stayed with any one job or field in spite of having a good education in a highly employable profession. The truth is she didn’t want to be in that profession, but wasn’t encouraged to find out where she did want to be. She saw her gypsy behavior as a negative, but upon reassessment found she could call upon those experiences in developing a travel niche that creates vacations for people based on the experience they desire.

As a result of my personal assessments and soul searching with my own coach, I found that I’m a natural coach. Without realizing it I had been coaching family, friends and colleagues for years in both career and personal matters. They had often sought my advice and guidance. That’s a pretty clear indication a natural talent exists. I hadn’t realized I had this quality even though I had been using it for years. It took an objective outsider to help me “see” who I am. Only then could I claim it.

Honoring

Closeup of Treasure Chest with treasureWhen we put our innate assets to their best and highest use, we are honoring them. The process of honoring includes prioritizing each major asset and deciding how we’re going to use it in achieving our goals. It’s not possible to incorporate all to the maximum. The challenge comes in putting them together to our greatest personal and professional benefit.

A client who had always wanted to be an entrepreneur had tried unsuccessfully on two previous occasions. In taking the sequential steps of personal branding, he confirmed that his attitude, demeanor, personality and drive spelled entrepreneur. He was trained as an architect, but construction was his real forte. His task became restructuring his asset base to that format. Today he’s building a business in construction management and already in need of help to meet the demand for his services.

One of my clients has created a spiritual coaching program called Living Out Loud. Her work is about helping people connect with that inner spark at the core. It’s where our real treasure is buried. When allowed to shine, that spark will light our way as we travel on life’s journey.

It’s never too soon or too late to begin the process. The deciding factor is your commitment to making the most of who you are by identifying, claiming and honoring your personal treasures. If you choose to give it a try, look for the rise in energy level you feel as you think about or undertake any activity. Make note of these. Perform the 360 degree assessment and go through the steps described above. Then complete the foundation by integrating your personal treasures into your business and your daily life.

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If you’d like my expert guidance in identifying, claiming and honoring your buried treasure, drop me a note and we’ll get to it right away. I promise it will make a huge difference in the success of your business and you’ll find greater joy in everything you do.

How Can I Save This Sinking Ship?

Sinking ship with crew member bailing it out. Business metaphor.What causes a ship to sink? A leak in one of the systems? Too much weight? Hit by an unexpected object?

You’re on the high seas on the way to deliver a valuable cargo. Suddenly you get word from below that the ship has developed a leak that unless stopped could, over time, cause the ship to sink. What’s the most effective first reaction? Plug the leak? Find the source or cause? Protect your valuable cargo?

Or perhaps in your exuberance to maximize your profits you’ve taken on more weight than the ship can manage. It’s riding so low in the water that eventually it will be pulled down below the surface.

Of course, it could also be an undetected iceberg.

As captain of your business (your ship) you may be faced with similar situations.

A System Leak?

A business leak might be an employee skimming from revenue. I once had a client whose bookkeeper loved to gamble and would “borrow” money from the incoming cash, and of course, never pay it back. These kinds of leaks are insidious in that it’s often hard to even know there is a leak until things become bad. The business owner needs to have systems in place that match products and/or services provided to expected income. Yet, many small businesses do not.

Too Much Weight?

An overweight business has more expenses than income. It’s easy to forget that often the money doesn’t come in until well after the expense must be paid. If not corrected early, the business will find itself sinking deeper and deeper each month. At some point it’s too late. This business ship can be saved by preparing a monthly budget, observing expenses and income on at least a monthly basis. Considering the long term effect, it’s imperative that expenses must be brought down until the income can match them. Additional capital funding sources may be a short term answer, but eventually it has to be paid back.

An Unexpected Hit?

Then there’s the big lucrative client who had been buying from you for years. Suddenly, there’s a better mouse trap somewhere else and they are gone. Of course, you can try to get them back, but meanwhile the expenses go on. Having a strategy for dealing with the unexpected will help you get to the issue immediately.

These situations deal with systems, budgeting and crisis management. Every business at some point will likely experience similar situations. The answer to all of them is the same:  having a solid business management system. That means having time-specific measurable goals, a clear plan of action, consistent monitoring and decision-making based on results.

Now, don’t panic. This stuff is not hard to do. It’s just a matter of learning the techniques and tactics to run your business proactively rather than reactively. I’ve packaged a new six-month semester course called Captains School, which covers the gamut of what it means to function as captain. It provides the training, tools and support to give you the confidence to consistently make sound business decisions.

Aren’t you tired of bailing water?

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Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’re getting that “sinking” feeling, send me a note and I’ll be in touch to schedule a phone call.

Challenges of Transitioning from Executive to Entrepreneur

We love a good small business success story here at Prime Strategies, and open forum’s telling of Charles Henagan’s is a great example of someone moving from executive status to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Embarking upon what appeared to be his dream job, Henagan was tasked with bringing new life to a legendary brand of vodka. Nearly 50, he was given new life with his exciting schedule of travel, meetings and strategy sessions while staying connected to his younger colleagues over post-work drinks.

Only 6 months into his new role, spirit sales began to sink internationally in response to the recession. As a result, Henagan was let go, leading him from the work force to becoming an unemployment statistic.

Henagan decided against looking for another corporate job in such delicate economic times, so he established Market Edge International, a New York City-based consulting firm that helps clients create sales teams and marketing strategies.

Henagan laments “The U.S. economy is changing so dramatically that in most industries, even when things pick up, the management structure will be fairly flat.” He felt exiting that scene and starting his own company was the most logical and dependable solution.

Not all victims of the down-turned economy have landed on their feet. Flexibility and long-term experience saved Henagan from the unemployment line but for some, starting their own business with a corporate executive mindset is slightly trickier. Most at the executive level are used to collaborating on big decisions and spending corporate money. Having sole responsibility for all decisions and tasks, can be a difficult mindset to accept. Plus it’s tough to deal with the loss of status. Some even experience anger, denial, depression, and so entrepreneurship is not for every transitioning executive.

Henagan, however, considers himself lucky to have made a smooth transition into entrepreneurship as opposed to pursuing another corporate job. He’s busy at work applying his acquired skills and new knowledge to his growing business. It works for him.

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If you’re an entrepreneur seeking help with planning for 2014, Prime Strategies offers One-Day Fast-Track Planning  to guide you in creating a solid Action Plan that will lay the foundation for a successful and profitable year.

Internet Marketing 101: Part-1

Marketing your brand and getting customers in the door is a complicated but necessary component to the success of your business. It can be expensive to implement the right kind of advertising strategy which makes the internet all the more appealing.

But in addition to being mostly free, the internet can be overwhelming, especially for late-life entrepreneurs who didn’t grow up Tweeting and Facebooking and LOLing. This is new to you and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Here are some tips for staying calm and making the most of your internet use.

Find Your Target Market

One of the first mistakes most business owners make when using the web for marketing is they yell at the masses instead of networking with a more relevant pool of people. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of content online and a lot of people online. Not every web surfer is going to be your potential customer so instead of getting lost in all the yelling, target who you need to.

Chances are you already know your target market, assuming you’ve gotten that far in your business plan. The next step is to figure out where these folks hang out on the internet. What kind of websites do they visit? Which blogs do you think they read? Are they more likely to use Twitter or Facebook to connect with their friends and family? Age, gender and other demographics are a great way to figure this out. Doing some research online (Google any doubts away, always) can steer you in the right direction but in general, use what you already know. If your target customer is like you, find blogs you enjoy reading. Or simply find other people talking about the type of products you sell and get ready to tell them they should be buying yours.

Build Up Your Profile

Once you figure out which social platforms your target audience is using most, go there and become a part of it. Before you get started, make sure your profiles represent your business well. Be sure to include contact information; business address, phone number, website – if any. Make sure the aesthetics match your overall brand and include something personal so people can get to know you better. If you’ve been in business for 35 years, mention that you’re an authority with a lot of experience. If you’re just starting out, discuss how eager you are to get in the game and how much fun you’re having. Be you. That’s how you will attract listeners.

One of the more common misconceptions of internet marketing is that it will be quick and easy. But to get the right results and avoid wasting your time on the wrong demographics, it will take some time and patience. Don’t fear, though, because you’re not alone. Figuring out the nuances of internet marketing isn’t just challenging because you’re not entirely used to it; its complexities are blind to age, so why not join the race and see what you can make of it?

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll conclude our internet advice with part 2 of Internet Marketing 101.


If you’re a late-life entrepreneur seeking support in business planning and management techniques, Prime Strategies can offer the necessary guidance and expertise to help you reach your goals.

BUSINESS CHALLENGES: How to Face Them with Confidence

If I say “business challenge” what comes to mind? Most people have a negative connotation of the word “challenge”. But we know that with every challenge comes an opportunity.

Think of meeting a challenge as facing a crossroads in your path. Take one direction and the outcome will likely be A; take the other and the outcome will probably be more like B.

In order to reach the best decision, you must be clear about your Long Term Vision and Goals. Only then can it be a sound point of reference for decision-making. If clarifying your Vision and Goals is one of your challenges, you might consider working with a trusted advisor or coach. Operating without a Vision and Goals is like setting sail without a destination port.

Considering Vision and Goals before reaching a decision will not only make the decision easier, it will become an opportunity to take an active, positive step toward them.

Here are the questions to ask when identifying a challenge.

–          How does this challenge affect my Long Term Vision and Goals for myself and my business?

–          Based on that, what are the most logical options to resolve the challenge?

–          What will be the probable outcomes of each of my options?

By answering these questions in sequence you’ll have the most critical point of reference at hand as you’re considering your options and their ramifications. You’ll obviously want to select the option that will most favorably affect realization of your Long Term Vision and Goals.

Sometimes challenges are such that your Vision, Mission and Goals will need to be rethought.

Faced with a challenge to go out on his own when his partnership fell apart, John Douglas, had to rethink his Long Term Vision and Goals. He was one of two architects who had built their business on mutual interests, without consideration of how each would function in the business. When they realized they were at an impasse, they decided it was better that each go his own way.

By taking the time to review what he wanted for himself and how the business could be a vehicle for him to express his best self, he found it easy and rewarding to clarify and write out his Long Term Vision and Goals. He now can face other challenges with the confidence that he’ll have this as his guiding light for making any decision.

The final decision for any challenge, of course, is just the beginning of the next phase – Goal Setting, which is then followed by Planning, Taking Action and Evaluating Results.

As you can see we’re bringing the challenge into the Planning Cycle.

By considering the challenge against a meaningful outcome, we now know what questions to ask and how to determine what needs to happen in order to keep on track toward Goal Achievement. Use of Short Term Goals creates interim milestones that tell us we are on track toward our Long Term Goals and Vision.

Identify the challenges you currently face. Write them out, prioritize them and consider the likely options against your Long Term Goals and Vision.

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TALK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGES:

Are you serious about resolving your challenges with a positive outcome? Are you open to discussing how coaching might accelerate your progress?  Let’s spend half an hour talking about what your want for yourself and your business. Just talking about it will bring things into focus and help you get on track. There’s no charge and no obligation. Send me an e-mail and we’ll schedule a mutually convenient time to speak.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

Action:  Following Your Plan

Wow! Look how far you’ve come. You’re actually ready for action. Let’s just do a quick review to see how we got to this point.

You started with the abstract concept of your business – your vision. You were able to see it with your mind’s eye. You identified and quantified what it would look like as a mature business. Then you took a snapshot of where you are now and how you are operating. Since there was a difference between the two, we determined the size of that difference and how long we thought it might take to get from where we are to where we want to be.

If our timeframe realistically is five years we’ll need to work backward from that place we want to be in five years. The more this can be quantified, the better, because we need some benchmarks along the way to show us how we’re doing against our ultimate plan. These benchmarks correspond to our goals, which we set on an annual basis in an order that gets us closer to our vision with each passing year.

From the goals comes the strategy for how we’ll accomplish them. From the strategy comes the specific task list – our plan. In order to support carrying out our plan we need to know when we will undertake each task, what resources will be required and what the expected result/reward will be – and when we can expect to see those results. That was the subject of our last article on financial planning.

At this point, you’ve got an operating plan and a financial plan, both of which have addressed the timing issue. From your financial projections you know when your expenses will occur from month to month. So the next step is to apply your plans to your daily calendar on a month-by month basis. It’s good to include your revenue, expense and projected profit goals also. It helps to have the list available to help keep you on target.

Then you place each task in one of the four weeks of the month, where they seem to be most logical. Obviously you don’t want to pile them all in the same week. Consider the time each will take and use your best judgment about where to include them. Once you’ve transferred to the weeks you will be ready to transfer to the daily calendar as each week comes up. Now you’re at the day-to-day operating level. This is where your plan is being carried out. If you aren’t doing it here, it isn’t happening.

It isn’t hard; it just means taking the time at the beginning of the month and each week. At the end of each week, see what you accomplished from your list and what has to be carried forward or dropped. Make any adjustments to your monthly plans based on what has transpired during the past month.

Using our plan to increase gross income (revenue) by $60,000 for the year, let’s see what happens on a month to month basis. In June, we pay for our sales materials. (June projected expenses are $10,000).

We’ve projected $10,000, so we know that’s our budget. In the planning phase we would have probably started working on our sales materials and finding someone to provide them in April. That’s how we knew how much to include in the financial plan for sales materials. We put that plan into action by adding “finalize sales material provider” as the task to be completed for week one of April. Then week two might be to check initial drafts and return for changes. Week three will likely be sign off on proposal and week four or five would be when we’d receive the materials.

Based on this we’re ready to start our training in May. That means we’ll have to start preparing that in April also.  We’ll be paying the provider of our training in July in accordance with our plan. We plan to do a campaign in August and September also which we’d include in our sales costs in August, September and October.

Now you can break up the tasks in each of these months by week and you’re implementing your plan.

We’ve translated our plan into action and have a way to check to see how we’re doing. Next we’ll look at the management aspect of the business. That’s where we see if what we planned actually happened and if not, why not? We can also see how close we are to our projected budget. Now it gets interesting.

Delegation & Teamwork

Delegation & Teamwork, businessman covering his head with his laptopRegardless of the business you’re in you’re not going to be able to build a viable, thriving enterprise without the help of others. This is where some entrepreneurs get stuck. Many of us fall into the rut of trying to do it all ourselves even as the business grows. And that’s where problems can begin.

Alfred Peet, founder and former CEO of Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc., admits his biggest mistake was not being able to delegate. Quoted in an Inc article, he said, “I know exactly where I want to go, but I can’t explain every thought, every idea I have for the future of this company. Many people left. I was burnt out, so I had to sell. Do you know what it’s like when you’ve given so much, there’s nothing left?” He sold Peet’s Coffee in 1979 after 13 years in business.

Burn-out takes its toll and the business feels the stress. [Read more…]

Want More Sales! Create More Value!

If you’re feeling frustrated with the results of your sales efforts, don’t give up; try creating more value. Of course, value will be different for each type of business. Your job is to determine what it is and how you can provide it.

Adding free bonuses and extras is a common way to add value. Barnes & Noble built its online business quickly by offering free shipping when Amazon.com did not.

An accountant friend added the service of setting up and training on the client’s accounting software making it painless for the client and much easier to obtain needed information for taxes and reporting. It was a win-win and many clients saw the value.

Depending on your business, you might include free upgrades for your software. Maybe add a complimentary financial assessment for a new investment client. Or a free car wash with an oil change. Consider where you can add value at little or no cost to you. The objective is to get the commitment from the customer. Once a customer they are a prime candidate to buy more if you have provided value. [Read more…]

7 Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Business

We don’t yet have confirmation that we’re in a recession, but the media are certainly leading us to believe it’s imminent. I’ve spoken with a number of small businesses who are already starting to feel a slowdown.

That tells me every small business needs to take a hard look at the status of their business to make sure it can withstand a downturn. The secret is to have your Plan address spots where you may be vulnerable. Prevention now definitely beats fixing things after they become difficult to turn around.

Following are top strategies for weathering a downturn. They are actually good business practices in any economy.

1. Get your house in order.
Start by solving as many problems as possible n0w. Unresolved problems hurt even more in difficult times. Get your cash under control. Choose strategies that conserve and manage it. If you need help, get it ASAP. [Read more…]