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8 Bold Ways to Ride Out the Roller-Coaster Economic Climate

First, trash all your expectations. Then use these seven other tips to make 2004 a successful year for your business.

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The global economic downturn has impacted all small businesses, including those with even the simplest globalization strategies. What can you do to ride out the roller-coaster economic climate? First, trash all your expectations.

Let's face it, we're in a "transitional" economy-an extraordinary period of uncertainty-that's so profound, it's causing many small businesses to cut back or pull back on their initiatives like never before. Taking action at the earliest sign of danger is the only sure-fire way not to get killed. A tactical approach might be to outwit your competitors, retool your products, realign your service offerings or readjust your attitude. The old way of doing things-trying to fit everything into pre-existing patterns-will not necessarily work in the new economy.

To merely stay on track, focus on the short term. But to really relish your ride, start to put a gigantic plan in place for the future. The winners will be those folks who know how to get a job done, are radical innovators and born risk-takers. Those who are willing to stick their necks out and make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains will bring home the big prize of greater profits and revenues.

Don't do anything foolish though to hamper your long-term prospects. Look at your problems as opportunities. Rediscover, revisit and refocus on all aspects of your business. During the refocus phase, examine the parts of your business that have competitive and sustainable (hopefully revenue) advantages and then execute a perfect plan.

Here are eight bold ways to ride out the roller-coaster economic climate:

1. Trash all your expectations. Create discomfort within your organization. Comfort leads to inaction, and in this rough-and-tumble world, you want as much action as possible. Be inspired and desperate because you need both of these characteristics to keep the business prospering. Don't overlook emotion either. Some of our best creations generally take place when we're under the influence of powerful emotions such as righteous anger or unruly love.

2. Communicate effectively. Employees tend to clam up or start gossiping if they don't know what's going on. Keep them informed and excited. Articulate a clear vision with a positive anticipation for the future.

3. Look for new opportunities. Start by focusing on your core customers and look for signs of a shifting mindset or market. The idea is to search for successful next-generation ideas or cutting-edge trends that will sustain you over the long term.

4. Be conscious and aware of what's going on in the world and the impact it may have on your business. What effect will the resignation of Boeing's CEO have on your business? What if the flu outbreak becomes the worst since that of 1968-69? Or President Bush eliminates tariffs on steel and other imports? Maybe each of these separately won't impair your business but in combination, it might destroy it. Be ready.

5. Ask customers for referrals. To drum up new business, why not just ask your clients who you should contact? If you've done a good job, they'll be more than happy to refer you to someone else. It makes them look good and fortifies your relationship.

6. Develop new products or service offerings. First, take a good long look at what you already offer. Then sort through any shortcomings to come up with something genuinely better. Who knows? Maybe you might find a whole new market for your business that's huge. Most companies today can't keep offering the same old stuff to the same old customers through the same old channels in the same old way. Start offering a dizzying array of superb anything.

7. Reinvent yourself to offer something new and disruptive where there's a demand. You're looking to capture the imagination of every person on the planet and then sell them something they didn't even know they needed. New market disruption offers a grand opportunity to alarm established companies and steal away some business.

8. Build a more shockproof bridge to your new business. Help your staff understand links between the past, present and future. Explain who you were, where you are now and what you plan to become. Nothing beats acting out your intentions. Keep acting them out until it sticks with your family, friends, employees, suppliers and customers.

There's no cookie-cutter approach to running a business because everything is up for grabs. Instead of becoming a victim of circumstance, create a situation where you work relentlessly to transform your organization. Be a master of your own destiny: There's no better time than now to trash all your expectations and get ready to roll.

Laurel Delaney runs Global TradeSource Ltd., a Chicago-based global marketing and consulting company. She's also the creator of Borderbuster, an e-newsletter that focuses on global marketing. Delaney is the Chicago chapter facilitator for Women Presidents' Organization and can be reached at

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