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Wall Street & Washington: Where The Wild Things Are

When I was young, one of my favorite books was Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Can’t wait till little Arianna is big enough to deal with the monsters in the book so I can read it to her.

As I was reading Robert Kiyosaki’s finance column on Yahoo today, it hit me that the monsters in the room (in the book) are much like the financial houses and the goverment moves we’re hearing about in the news every day.

More important than my goofy way of relating that odd parallel is a rhetorical question Kiyosaki asks:

How did we become so financially weak that we surrender our economic independence to politicians?

It resonated with me because it echoes what I’ve been saying here for quite some time: Use your business to take control of your own economy.

Enjoy that cup of coffee, kick back and read what the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” guy has to say about the financial bailout and how it affects all of us. Yes, there is a business lesson for all of us there.

PS: I don’t advise reading the public comments on that page. Stay positive and focused.

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5 strategies to bailout your Main Street business without Federal help

While the news is littered with discussion, arguments and political posturing about the U.S. Government bailout of the financial industry, there’s no meaningful discussion about more than 27 million Main Street businesses that never get that kind of help.

So, being the nice guy that I am:), I’ve assembled 5 strategies to help you weather the storm swirling in Washington and New York, without spending a cent of taxpayer money:

  1. Measure twice, cut once
  3. Dot those i’s, cross those t’s
  4. Help them thrive
  5. No more secrets

Let’s talk about each of these.

Measure twice, cut once

Be brutal about getting rid of unnecessary overhead. I’m talking about the kind of stuff you don’t need and never needed, NOT the kind of overhead that you can tie to revenue and profit.

For example, I’m not talking about laying off quality staff members. Instead, I’m looking directly at those expenses that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Ever wonder how a big company can cut 25,000 employees and still manage to not only stay in business, but continues to deliver their products and services? Did they ever really need those 25,000 people?

Look at your waste. What gets thrown away? Can manufacturing waste be reused or resold? Can it be used to serve another purpose? Look at every consumable with a critical eye, not just for elimination, but for re-use or replacement by a more efficient product, commodity or service.

MACTAROMI – Measure All Campaigns To Accelerate Return on Marketing Investment

Yeah, that acronym is a little cheesy:)

While some will suggest that you cut your marketing expenses during tight markets, I simply can’t agree with this advice. Do you really want to disappear off the radar of those who are still buying? I don’t think so.

If you are measuring your marketing response and know where the best ROI for your marketing dollar comes from, you should be spending as much as you can to keep bringing customers to your door. Of course, this assumes positive ROI from those marketing campaigns.

It isn’t just about which marketing effort generates the most responses, but also the return on your advertising dollar. The right combination will have you happily filling out deposit slips while your competitors wonder where their customers went.

Still, some are sorely tempted to cut all costs, including marketing. If you’re going to do so, knowing which efforts produce the worst results could result in two thought processes: Cut that campaign, or figure out why it isn’t working and correct the problem.

On the other hand, if you don’t know which marketing efforts actually work because you aren’t measuring their response, how would you know what to cut? You could easily cut your most effective campaign.

This is a great time to start measuring if you aren’t doing so.

Dot those i’s, cross those t’s

Ever notice that people perform long needed home repairs or improvements right before they sell a home, or that they wait until in the middle of winter to fix a draft under the basement door? Contractors could tell you plenty of these stories.

In tight times, the last thing you need is to have leaks of any kind, particularly revenue pouring down a storm drain.

Make sure there aren’t any gaps in the movement of paper around your office. One lost piece of paper might lose your next million dollar customer (could be a referral you miss out on…)

Create checklists to make sure that no ball gets dropped and permanently incorporate the lists into your workflow.

Make sure leads are getting called back, scripts (If you have them) are being followed, sources of leads are being recorded and that return calls, emails and faxes are being made on time.

If you don’t have a “What’s next?“, find or create one. If you have one, make sure everyone is well aware of it and selling it.

Monitor every delivery and installation and follow up to make sure the customer was thrilled.

Ask for referrals as part of every single sale. “If you have a friend who needs our kind of help, we’d be honored if you’d recommend us. Here’s a card for 5 of your friends.”

Every time another business does something to annoy you, write it down and dig around in your business to make sure you aren’t doing the same thing. Then fix it. Today.

Do the simple, obvious things that you know you should always be doing, but didn’t because there was always plenty of business. These things might just be the difference you need – and they might just turn out to be the boost that catapults you into that next growth phase.

Help them thrive

Both your staff and your clients can use all the help they can get.

For your staff, look for those that are struggling. Don’t wait for them to pull themselves out of a sales slump. Help them. Buddy them up with a salesperson who is doing well these days, even if you have to pay the successful buddy an extra point or two of commission as a thanks. The more success encountered by the least successful salesperson, the better things will be for everyone.

For your clients, look at these 5 things for their business (and don’t stop there if you have ideas). How can you help them become more efficient? How can your products and services make them a leaner, stronger, higher productivity business? It might just be a piece of advice that came from a success that you had in your business. The last thing you want is the failure (or even a downturn) for your customer.

For your prospects, do the same thing. Maybe they’re buying $12k worth of stuff from someone else every year, but that might change if you’re the one offering them some help to assure their success. A great way to do this is by sending them your client newsletter, which shouldn’t really be a sales piece.

No more secrets

No matter what your state of mind about the current economic news, you simply have to recognize that news of rough economic times might concern your staff far more than it concerns you.

If you’re doing a good job of taking care of business, you might still be pretty confident of hitting your numbers and continuing to grow. Losing the business, or laying off people might be the farther thing from your mind.

However, you are not your staff.

They might be petrified about the news. They might have friends or family members who just got laid off. Do you really want them focused on the latest gloom and doom on CNN (much less the local gossip), worrying about how they’ll feed their kids if you lay them off, or would you prefer they watched the tight tolerances in your manufacturing shop because they know things are OK in your business?

Put yourself in their place: Wouldn’t be nice to know that sales were flowing in steadily and that making payroll is not a touch and go situation?

Ask your staff what they would do to improve productivity and cut unnecessary costs, making sure to let them know that you are working hard to make the company a stronger employer and that their help is essential to that process.