Business Cycles Are Difficult … But Healthy
* Staff reductions are inevitable. Now is the time when performance counts. Your marginal contributors must be given a chance to be successful somewhere else. Next to mailing costs, payroll is usually the second largest expense of a catalog company, and the only place where meaningful cost reductions can be made quickly.
* Apply technology. When you look back over the last 30 years of cataloging, the big productivity improvements have been made when new technologies have been applied. Don’t be afraid to invest in productivity-boosting operating software, database modeling, Internet marketing technologies and other places where new technology has changed the game. Remember, the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result. You must adapt now!
* Outsource to save money. Now may be the time to finally give up control of some function you’re doing in-house that could be performed better and cheaper by a third-party. Are you still really the best person to run your call center, your HR department, your IT department, your warehouse?
* Focus on your core strengths and what’s working. Sometimes, by making more of your successes you can surpass the benefit of cutting the things that are going poorly. Now, more than ever, you need to focus on the right two or three things that are going to make the big difference.
* Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Your employees are worried too, and need reassurance, confidence and, most importantly, direction. Never leave the helm in a storm.
* Have faith. Those who remain positive and focused in the face of adversity or insurmountable odds are true leaders. If your sales have dropped 20 percent in one month, the challenge may look daunting, just as it did immediately after Sept. 11. At the same time, remember that “this too shall pass” and you’ll, hopefully, emerge leaner, meaner and stronger than before. Just like the forest after the fire.