By Sandra Taylor-Sawyer: Guest Columnist
As I contemplate writing the article for this month, several thoughts raced through my mind: the turmoil on Wall Street and its impact on Main Street USA, uncertainty for the future, the housing situation, rising prices, businesses reducing or cutting services, and the upcoming election. Many business owners are asking questions: Do we maintain the course? What is the next step? Should we expand and open a second location? Can I add another person to the payroll? How can I increase sales?
Financial ratios, business strategies, loan requirements, human resource, contingency options, and additional business topics have been presented in previous articles. These topics are all elements of a business plan. If a business plan has not been written, now is an excellent opportunity to do so.
The business plan is a written document containing strategic and well-thought-out directions for the future; a road map. Perhaps it may be difficult to accomplish some items outlined in the business plan because of the economy, but one can begin preparation to act once conditions change. One contingency item business owners can consider during this time is to diversify and research ways to increase sales by reaching new markets: geographic, industry, age, and purpose.
Diversification can involve services, products, markets or a combination of the three. For services and products businesses should find new uses for individual items – determine if single items can be bundled together and sold as a packet. Research new markets such as how other industries can use the services or products. In addition, markets in other geographic areas can be pursued. Consider locations within close proximity to the business and then branch out to other areas.
In my research for this article I conversed with several experts on their perspective toward this unprecedented time in our history. During my conversation with Larry Erwin, a financial planning consultant, he recommended not making any drastic changes to investments. Wait and pray – with emphasis on praying. “When I first started the Dow Jones was around 400 points. Over time we have experienced highs and lows. The economy always bounces back. It will this time.”
As we wait for the market to stabilize and plan for the future, begin by dusting off those business plans. Look at what is going right, review what has gone wrong, and adjust your business accordingly. Now is an excellent time to prepare a business plan if there is not a written plan.
Sandra Taylor-Sawyer is director of the Small Business Development
Center at Clovis Community College. Call the center at 769-4136 or