What to Focus on in a Tough Economy

Peter Drucker

The goal of every business is to add customers and delight them with your company’s products and services. We call this the total brand experience. Much has been written on this subject but what’s absolutely clear is, No customers, no business! A number of consultants have talked about this, including Peter Drucker, the management guru.

Essentially, Drucker believed that the customer should be the focus of, and purpose for, the organization. He explained, “A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers, to provide the goods or services which the company exists to produce. Profit is not the primary goal but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence.”

When the marketplace around the world started to experience strong negative impacts in 2007, many companies were unprepared for what would transpire. The natural reaction to this slowdown and downturn was to hunker down and wait until things returned to normal. Did that happen at your company? Most CEOs that I talk with say there is a ‘new new’ that we have to get used to.

Sure there are still meteoric rising success stories like Instagram being purchased for $1 billion dollars by Facebook. Talk about being in the right place at the right time with just the right product mix and personal relations with the acquirer! But for most of us that isn’t the norm, so here are a few suggestions for making the best of today’s reality and building your company for tomorrow.

Take a tough situation and do the opposite
This is really counter-intuitive in a period where you are trying to preserve your hard-earned cash. Dad used to say that any dummy could spend dollars, but it took a smart person to earn them. This was good advice but when you see an opportunity to gain a burst of growth be willing to step out and invest in your idea. You might find your new positioning in a good place because so many of your competitors are sitting on the sidelines. Take a few risks and test your instincts. Sometimes fuzzy logic is a lot more accurate than months of analysis, and I get to say that because I’m a strategic market advisor!

Consider launching a new product or service, or even a new company

I realize this might sound off the wall, but think about it, most people abhor risk, and so this might be a terrific time to try out that idea you’ve been noodling for a very long time.

Look for niches that you can dominate

A multi-niche strategy spreads your risk among many markets and protects you from the Win or Lose scenario a single-market company can experience. Graphic arts and printing companies often make this mistake by “specializing” in one market. Usually, the reality is, these specialties occur because the company doesn’t have a proactive growth plan so they naturally tend to attract the same type of customer in the same market. Great in good times, bad if that market goes away.

Tom Marin is the president of MarketCues, a national consulting firm. Tom serves as a senior advisor and change-management consultant with 35 years of experience. He has worked for some of the world’s largest corporations, as well as middle-market firms. Tom's focus is to plan and drive strategy shifts and strategic growth programs in the printing industry and a diverse range of market areas.
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