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Portage County Farmers Market

In Times of Economic Chaos, Opportunities Abound

By Portage County Business Council

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”  The words of Charles Dickens are a fitting description of today’s business climate.  But with difficult times come opportunities if businesses are only willing to stretch their thinking and reexamine old business paradigms.

These are unprecedented times for business.  On one hand, businesses struggle to manage their cash and keep the doors open.  Some markets have seen declines in sales of over 70%.  Money for projects or expansion is tight or not available at all.  Rest assured all businesses are facing some type of economy-related challenge.

Though these are unprecedented times, there are opportunities to be found in the chaos. Firmly entrenched business allegiances are shaking loose from the pressures of the poor economy.  As some businesses hunker down to weather the storm, service and quality may suffer, leaving the door open to forge new business partnerships.

The new business paradigm is about resolving problems for both supplier and customer.  It’s not enough today to just deliver a product at a price and collaborations can yield surprising results.  Here are a few ways you might take advantage of current opportunities.

  • Be flexible with your terms.  If it serves your company, offer terms that can help your customer. Put all your company “policies and terms” on the table and scrutinize them.  Ask yourself “Do our policies serve us, or do we keep them from habit (that’s the way we always did it)?
  • Look for buying opportunities.  There may be opportunities to collaborate with businesses you consider competition.  Look for ways to pool your purchases to realize volume discounts or even to just share shipping costs.  Savings could be shared with your customers.  Every dollar helps.
  • Revisit those accounts that seemed to be “tied up” by your competition.  Ask them what their challenges are and find creative ways to help them.
  • Talk to your suppliers.  They have their own challenges that you may be able to help them with.  Again, consider total cost, not price.
  • Look for cross-promotion opportunities.  Find businesses that are not direct competitors but work within your market. Examples include restaurants partnering with community agriculture, or a cabinet shop partnering with a stone or solid surface fabricator.
  • Leverage your network.  You may find you have value in those you know. Referring them can be a win/win/win.
  • Don’t bend over a dollar to pick up a dime.  Look at your total cost (not price) when determining make/buy decisions. In many cases quality, delivery or service can be more important to your customer than price.  Sometimes paying more can actually save you and your customer money.

Helping a customer or supplier doesn’t always have to cost you money.  In fact many of the suggestions above can also help your bottom line while helping to build a healthy and profitable business relationship with both customer and supplier.

If you’re planning to survive and be successful, you’ll need to do more than hunker down and wait for business to get better.  Because while you’re waiting, your competition is busy looking for ways to help their (and your) customers.

These are unparalleled times, and they may not return in our lifetime (thankfully or unfortunately).  The future belongs to those that recognize and pursue those opportunities within the chaos.