One of the smartest things any business owner can do is continue their education. The remarkable thing about a recession is it brings to light all of the business practices we believed to be strong and true and reveals how reliable they really are. One thing is for sure – surviving the waiting time for an economy to heal takes sustainability and for a business that means being in a positive cash position to be able to buy time and adjust short term strategies.
Fellow SCORE guest blogger Sue Hartman stated an excellent point which I will copy and paste to save you the time of searching for the actual blog:
“Companies that have a longer term strategic plan (3+ years) have a significant competitive advantage in challenging economic times. They have already gone through the exercise of indentifying/prioritizing key initiatives and know where to apply their limited resources. (i.e., $’s, people). They already have a clear vision for the organization (i.e., what will the company look like in the future)? In most cases, a recession may slow down the rate at which a company moves forward, but more often than not, a depressed economy does not change the direction that a company should pursue.”
This couldn’t be truer and for those of you who aren’t sure if you have a long term strategic plan, then chances are – you don’t. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are plenty of places you can go to learn how to begin the process – many of them at your local university, business/management school. The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners is fortunate enough to offer a robust program through the organization that teaches women business owners exactly how to develop the long term sustainable strategy, develop with a group of peers similar in size of business and experiencing the same growing pains. And the proof is in the pudding – our graduates have seen an average of 150-250% increase in profitability within a 1-2 years of graduating from our program. These are also the same businesses who, despite the recession, are still alive and kicking. These are the same businesses who will be prepared for the next recession when it comes around in about 15 years.
An important point of clarification regarding having a long term strategic plan: this is not the same as a business plan. A business plan is a written document which details a proposed or existing venture. It explains the intended vision and status, anticipated needs, defined target markets and projected results. A long-term strategic plan focuses on organizational development and transition from an entrepreneurial endeavor to a professionally managed firm built on a foundation of the existing target market, products and services offered to support the market, resources to support the products and services, operational systems to support the organization, management of the organization and definition of the corporation’s culture. Basically, a long term strategic plan is the natural “next step” once the business plan is in effect.
During tough times, business owners re-evaluate every expense. Time is an expense and utilizing any free time you have as a business owner now, while business is slow, to invest in the future to prevent being so severely affected by a recession is one of the smartest things you can do particularly before you get too busy as the economy recovers.