When the new tariffs on Chinese steel were rolled out by Trump on September 1, American companies in every industry found themselves in the crosshairs of an ongoing battle of wills between the political forces in the U.S and China. Business owners everywhere briefly held their breath wondering how they would be affected.

Whether you hailed the chief for putting his foot down on China as public enemy No. 1, shook your head in disbelief figuring that the tariffs would ultimately have far-reaching consequences for every American that weren't being divulged, or weren't really that concerned at all, thinking you'd be covered by exceptions granted (of which there were thousands--on everything from "Oil well and oil field crank-balanced, long-stroke and beam pumps" to "pumps designed for countertop appliances for serving beer" to "remote control devices for use with toy model vehicles"), you likely knew that you might need to make changes because of them. 

Now, a month into the latest tariff increase, as the effects are starting to be felt, it's time to act. Rather than reacting with the knee-jerk response of raising prices to cover rising costs, what if you saw this as an opportunity to get creative? Here are a few ways to make the tariffs work for you: 

1. Use the tariffs as an opportunity to search for new suppliers.

Vendor diversification is an important part of keeping your business healthy. At Metal Mafia, we do this on a regular basis to ensure that we are always using the best practices in manufacturing, and looking for new ways to do things well has helped us to continually provide high-quality products to our customers. Vetting alternate suppliers is an important part of safeguarding your supply chain even in the best of times, and if the tariffs are affecting you, looking outside of your usual production areas may be the way to go for both short- and long-term strategy.

2. Use the tariffs as a reason to revisit your product catalog.  

It's easy for product offerings to grow unwieldy over time. At Metal Mafia, we have always stayed nimble by limiting the space we have to store our merchandise, so that we never get mired in obsolete or slow-selling stock. But just like letting your apartment get messy, it's easy for clutter to build up, so cleaning out any styles that aren't top sellers will help make your business run smoother. And doing so now, if the tariffs are aimed at you, will help you reduce overhead by carrying fewer items that are affected by the increase in cost.  

3. Use the tariffs as a customer engagement tool.  

At Metal Mafia, we view the China steel tariffs as a fantastic way to remind customers of the mission to which Metal Mafia has always held fast: high-quality jewelry at a fair price. Rather than produce in China like most of our competitors, we've always chosen to manufacture in Korea, where access to 316L steel and commitment to exceeding production standards is the norm. This means the tariffs aren't affecting us. If you're able to count yourself among the unaffected, that's worth talking about too. 

Trade war outcomes are always unpredictable, and this one is no different. While you may not be able to opt in or out, you can always find ways to make even the worst of situations work for you.

Published on: Oct 1, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.