With a weak economy and uncertain prospects, many companies -- large and small -- are urgently looking for more of two things: customers and cash flow.
No matter what the current economic situation, though it may seem more urgent in recessions than boom times, most small-enterprise owners welcome ideas and inspiration to help identify new opportunities and generate cash flow. This becomes particularly important when "the old ways" of doing business, for whatever reason, no longer seem to generate desired outcomes.
With the economic volatility that's marked the past few years, many enterprise owners have been frustrated at the limitations they perceive in their traditional areas of and approaches to business. But as Albert Einstein said, you won't solve the problems you're facing by using the same approaches that got you there. Regardless of the limitations and logjams of the market -- many of which are beyond your control -- you must use your existing time and resources well, in ways that will ultimately cultivate the opportunities you'd like. In this way, you can turn challenges and limitations into catalysts for new thinking, new approaches, new options, and new approaches.
Whether you're in start-up, maintenance or survival mode, or you're making a purposeful shift in your business strategy, it's important to plant seeds that will create the garden of your dreams, or at least one you'll enjoy working in. Many people allow their doubts and fears to consume valuable time and energy that can be better used. So where might you turn your attention? Here are four possibilities that are more productive uses of your time and energy:
Be very clear on and enthused about what you're looking to create. This philosophy is quite straight-forward: you can't reap specific results and rewards if you're flailing all over and making mad dashes in every direction. Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez incorporate this philosophy into their work at Perfect Customers Unlimited, and in their book, Attracting Perfect Customers. And there are many other approaches to weave this practice into your weekly activities. Regardless of the specific strategy you use, it helps focus attention and energy on those ideas and activities that will support new development and progress towards new opportunities. With your focus on such things, you can take more conscious, productive efforts each week.
Look for multiple, supplementary streams of income. The "coaching" profession has been a leader in this area, using teleclasses, teleseminars, audio tapes, e-books and the like as revenue streams to supplement fees from coaching. For example, Coachville.com (membership is now free) has many affordable resources and teleclasses on "developing multiple streams of revenue" and "doing teleclasses" (and a host of other issues). The same approach that coaches use might be adopted by consultants or other professionals. In turn, many consultants have often used publishing -- articles, books, booklets, Web resources -- to broaden their reach, add more variety to their offerings, and provide supplementary sources of income.
An example of this theory-in-action can be found at Action Plan Marketing. The site's founder, marketer Robert Middleton, offers a look at the possibilities of on-line multiple-income-stream business development. If you approach the site with an appreciation for the opportunity to "see it another way" through another person's approach and wording, you'll gain a few gems, and some new energy for your marketing, from looking through resources such as his site.
Step up collaborative efforts with kindred-spirits and complementary professionals. In my own collaboration network, we share support, ideas, referrals, leads, and inspiration. If we feel particularly aligned, we market for one another (either special outreach/efforts to complement our own, or along with our own marketing, since it creates a more expansive scope of resources for the clients). This type of collaboration offers a nice way to work, support others, receive support, expand visibility and reach, and just enjoy the collaborative nature of it all. Speaking from a practical perspective, it broadens the scope of any one person's marketing effort, which means broader exposure to potential clients. Each participating collaborator has many eyes and ears "out there" thinking of one another, which is certainly more effective than two eyes and two ears.
Assess your credit line with your lender. It's a worthwhile business practice to have financial resources, including your business line-of-credit, that support your business during cash-flow crunch as well as periods of "research and development" and growth (whether qualitative or quantitative). Many financial institutions offer competitive credit lines with extremely low rates. In addition, quite a few homeowners (who are also business owners) are taking advantage of low interest rates by tapping home equity loans. Of course, we're always mindful that this "buys us time" which we use to develop new income opportunities while maintaining desirable existing revenue streams and client relationships. In using these financial resources, we should view them as investments we're making in the development and forward-progress of our enterprise -- and we should fully identify and expect a return-on-investment that meets our standards and goals.
This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization or situation. Please use it mindfully. The most effective communication plan should be tailored to your unique needs, so don't hesitate to get individualized assistance from a communication expert.
Jamie Walters is the founder and chief vision & strategy officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco.