In September 2008, I wrote a column titled “Survival of the Fittest,” then followed that theme for the next year or so with the notion that you needed first to survive to be able to position yourself to return to more positive business growth.
Now, as survivors moving into the new decade, the question is, “Are you ready?” Have you begun to move from a defensive posture to a more offensive position? Are you prepared to control your future rather than merely react to the cards dealt you?
Being ready is more than making a simple decision. Like being ready to play a tough football season or run a marathon, being ready for success in your business takes several elements.
The first element is “belief.” To achieve success, you must believe that your business is ready to grow and see better returns.
Consumers are gaining confidence, thanks in part to good news in the media. But I think there are also other factors to support your belief in future success.
Your clients have been keeping their home remodeling projects (both needs-driven and discretionary) in a holding pattern during the last couple of years, but in 2010 your clients will feel increasing pressure to “land the plane.” One reason is because a home is starting to look like a good investment again. Although we have seen some positive signs on Wall Street, your clients still see the stock market as a risky place for their funds.
Another reason is that people have been saving at a higher rate than they did five years ago, which means there is more money available to fund remodeling projects. Stronger savings also make your clients more credit-worthy at a time when credit is tight and interest rates remain very favorable.
Your conviction for success will become contagious and will help your team and your clients to believe, too.
The second element of being ready is being fit. A very successful remodeler friend of mine told his team, “Although 2009 sales were down by 20%, it was our most successful year ever.” That seeming contradiction was possible because the company spent a lot of energy focusing on becoming leaner and better prepared for the future. It improved systems, upgraded its talent pool, and focused on creating a world-class client experience.
As is the case with your personal health, business fitness involves many factors that need to be in balance. To be effective in 2010, you need to balance and align not just your team, your processes, and your product, but also your strategic alliances and your reputation. Being “ready” isn’t something that will magically occur with the flip of a switch; you have to lay the groundwork over time. The sooner you get started, the better.
A third aspect of being ready is planning — not only for tomorrow or next week but, like a chess player planning several moves ahead, for next month, next quarter, and next year. While the last couple of years have shown that you can’t always accurately predict, you still need to plan if you are going to be successful.
Simply turning some of your attention to the long-term outlook would be a positive step. Most businesses have been focusing 90% of their time and resources on just getting from one day to the next, without spending much time looking six to 12 months out. By investing several hours each week in long-term planning, you can avoid repeating past mistakes and learn from the lessons of the last couple of years.
Planning time should focus not only on your business but also on your position as a leader. Being ready involves leadership skills that may have gotten rusty over the last couple of years. Most important among these are the communication skills needed to motivate others and the ability to be proactive rather than reactive.
Are you ready? If not, begin to prepare now, before the wave of opportunity passes.
—Mark Richardson, co-chairman of Case Design/Remodeling, is author of the book How Fit Is Your Business? firstname.lastname@example.org; 301.229.9580.