By Rick Harris, SCORE Mentor, SCORE NE Mass Chapter

Recently SCORE Mentor Rick Harris was interviewed on Newburyport radio station WNBP on the challenges that SCORE clients are facing coming out of the Great Recession. The following article is adapted from that interview.

Sound the trumpets! The Great Recession ended months ago when the economy stopped contracting. Order books are building. Corporate profits are growing. Here in Massachusetts we read that it really wasn’t all that bad compared to the rest of the country. And yet…something’s not quite right.

Actually two things are not quite right. First, we’re in the midst of a slow-growth recovery. The economy may not be contracting, but it’s not growing all that fast either—about 2%. And secondly, business is being cautious about hiring. If there aren’t a lot of jobs around, then people can’t get all that excited about statistical changes in the economy no matter how big.

In Northeastern Massachusetts we’re working with our clients to make lemonade out of all the lemons that are still out there. There’s opportunity amidst all that gloom. Here are three ways to take advantage of that opportunity and build your business faster than your more timid competitors.

  1. Focus
    If you survived this recession, you probably did so by seizing every opportunity you could, regardless of whether it met your long term strategy. Now it’s time to ask yourself: Did the recession take you into new markets—a good thing? Or did being opportunistic saddle you with complicated projects or low margin delivery contracts—a bad thing? This is an ideal time to look at your business prospects and decide which ones will truly be your most profitable opportunities. Spend time developing them because that’s where your future lies.
  2. Hire the Best
    Because businesses have been slow to hire, there are tons of highly qualified people looking for work. You have to look carefully to find them, but they’re out there. When you do find a good candidate, make sure he or she is the best candidate. A good hiring decision always pays for itself twice: first in terms of good performance and second in terms of headaches avoided. Steve Jobs used to say, if you hire A players, they attract other A players. If you hire B players, they attract C players.
  3. Explore new ways of engaging customers
    One place the recession seems to have skipped is social media. With almost 15% of the planet on Facebook, it’s hard to overlook its reach. But when the person with the most followers on Twitter is Lady Gaga, it may be easy to question its application to business. That would be a mistake. Suddenly, websites that act merely as electronic brochures are not as attractive as sites that encourage interaction with customers. Also, each person who “likes” your business’ Facebook page is saying in effect “keep me informed of what you’re up to”. And every time you post something new, say a special deal only for people who’ve liked your page, you’re increasing your bond with your customers.

If you’re starting a new business, or thinking that it would be a good idea to have a fresh perspective on the business that you’ve been running the past few years, we think now would be a good time to stop into a SCORE branch. We’re there to help you with issues like focus, hiring, marketing, plus ideas on funding to help accelerate your growth.