From the Editor – January/February 2009 eBiz Insider magazine. Download the complete issue as a PDF by clicking here.
It’s gone. Done. Finished. 2008 is behind us and a new year has begun and like many other business owners, I’m glad.
2008 will go down as one of the most challenging years we have faced in quite some time. While small businesses struggled to meet payroll and keep inventory on the shelves, the elite in Washington doled out nearly a trillion dollars of taxpayer money to their wealthy friends disguised as a “bailout.”
While banks foreclosed on homes and families were left on the street, the banking industry was given taxpayer money which was supposed to help reduce this travesty. Instead, executives took bonuses, smaller banks were bought up to create bigger ones, and the government made no provisions for accounting for where the money went.
George W. Bush left the White House
and President Barack Obama moved in with a vision to change the way government works. Good luck with that one, Mr. President.
As I write this today, I still see headlines of layoffs, closings, jobless rates at an all-time high and promises of an economic stimulus plan. But will it help the small guys like us? I doubt it. Until the politicians realize that the foundation of business in this country IS the small businesses, we won’t see any “bailouts.” We don’t lobby enough and we don’t donate enough to attract their attention, simply put, we’re not AIG, we’re not GM and we’re not on their radar.
So what is a small business owner to do?
The answer is simple. Work harder than you’ve ever worked before in your life. Working harder doesn’t mean 20 hour days. It means watching your balance sheet very carefully making sure the money you’re spending on inventory, equipment and supplies is really necessary. It means keeping one step ahead of your competition and making sure that every customer who visits your website becomes a customer. And most important it means you need to kiss your customer’s ass. Yes, I said it and I mean it.
Now more than ever, you need to treat your customers as if they were gold. Give them what they want. If they ask for a hassle-free return policy, give it to them. If they ask for deals because they spend a lot of money with you, send them coupons. If they request a specific color of something you sell and you sell it as “assorted,” give them what they want. The businesses that survive this “economic downturn” are going to be the ones that take care of their customers and really, truly value their business.
Treat your customer’s well and they will return the favor with another order.
This is our bailout; don’t expect one from the suits in Washington.