During a troubled economy, the media and the masses tend to focus on the more negative conditions of the climate. It is widely known that scandal and loss sell more news, and unfortunately I believe it causes people to focus more on what has been lost rather than what could be gained. When I was a Personal Financial Analyst, one of the first things I was taught was that you don't make your money on the peaks, but in the valley's. Basically, what that means is, that when things are popular, they are easier. Therefore, there is very little you can do to separate yourself from the pack. On the other hand, when things are hard, great opportunity's will present themselves for the right person. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons I got into business coaching. I always had the ability to look outside the box and see the good in any situation, and absolutely LOVED helping others through it. Listed below are a few key things that a business owner should keep his or her eyes open for when things get tough to improve the future on their company: 1) Re-establish Your Brand - One very common problem that companies have when they are successful, is that in their effort to meet the demand of their customers causes them to lose touch with what made them different. There are several examples of this on a national and local scale where the businesses, during huge rates of growth, were unable to sustain their standards of Customer Service, Quality, and Innovation. Periods of slow growth are a great opportunity to catch back up and chisel that brand again. 2) Improve Talent - This was actually the topic of discussion that started the Jim Hicks thread. What he had stated was that because other businesses were unable to sustain themselves during this time period, he was able to greatly improve his team. He had also mentioned that several of these great additions never even needed to look around for other opportunities before now, and that they were some of the best of the best in his industry. 3) Increase Loyalty - This item can be focused on both the customer side and the employee side of the business. When things are great, every business can get the job done or keep the paychecks coming. However, when things get rough, the businesses that have done the right things all along are the ones that find themselves able to fulfill their commitments. Displaying this degree of consistency proves to customers and employees alike that they have made the right decision about who they are working with, and generally feel confidant with their choice. 4) Provokes Innovation - It is well known that stability breeds complacency, and that adversity breeds innovation. When a company no longer has to work for opportunities, stay competitive, or improve a product or service, a degree of contentment can overtake common practices. A business may no longer concern themselves with new competition or with poor performance. To sum it up, the business focuses more on sustaining itself rather than growing. Adversity, on the other hand, causes people to question everything and find a way to make things work better. Many times, this adversity will also lay the foundation for brand new ideas or products that can improve the companies financial condition indefinitely. 5) Decrease Waste - Another great realization that comes from a challenging market is waste. I cannot mention how many times a business was unable to see the forest through the trees until they had to. When most business owners first put together their business plan, they are urged to account for a percentage of waste dependant on their industry. However, most rarely ever take the time to collect data and manage that loss when there is no shortage of work. Re-Work, Inventory Loss, and Poorly Scheduled Timeframes do not really expose themselves unless someone is looking for them. Our current economic climate is focusing people in on these areas now, and many companies will reap the benefits as we start our climb out. 6) Increase Market Share - Well, without stating the obvious, when things start to get rough on everyone, there are a lot of "orphans" left out there. On many occasions, it is not always the poorly run companies that don't make it. For one reason or another, a poor economic climate can be the figurative "straw that broke the camel's back" for a lot of well managed and well respected companies. Consequently, one of the first instincts of a business owner is to cut costs, particularly in advertising. However, the more successful companies develop a more offensive mindset when attempting to capture this new found market share. The best policy is to make sure that when people are looking, that you can be found, because a loyal customer base is left to find itself a new provider to equal the services they had come to expect. For the right company, this is a great opportunity to grow the customer base and establish themselves even more in the community. Few of us were created to handle the inconsistency and stress that goes along with being a business owner. By the same token, that is the main reason business owners traditionally make more money than the employed. Though we have very little control over the things that happen to us directly-- or to our business-- one of the things we do have control over is our enviroment. Surrounding ourselves with the right tools and the right support increases our opportunity to succeed in measurable ways. Just keep your eyes open, and listen to the others who have been through and MADE IT THROUGH what you are dealing with. As always Good Luck in your business ventures. Chau Coach West Fred West"Coach West" is the Owner and Founder of Enterprise Solutions International ESI is a Business support Company Specializing in Business Coaching and Consulting in the Hampton Roads area.