Thursday, April 02, 2009

Don't Waste a Good Crisis

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word "crisis". One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, they say, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.

This downturn, recession, depression or blip is like no other I have known. It is not by any means universal - neither by business sector nor national geography.

I now have a list of over 30 business sectors that are doing well - in some cases exceptionally well, and over a dozen countries with significant GDP growth forecasts.

I simply can't emphasise strongly enough that unless you are in automotive, construction or real estate then almost certainly you remain in control of your own future – no-one else. Indeed even in the automotive sector it is not universal gloom - I see that not only did Volkswagen have a record sales month in February but that the German car industry overall still expects to sell 200,000 more units this year than last and further that Toyota has actually increased sales in the US this year.

There are many growing markets with money to spend that you can and should target.

I recently spoke to a group of business leaders in London and was strongly emphasising the need, especially in these times, for businesses - all businesses - to be proactive in seeking out and converting new customers – in other words "prospecting". A man came up to me afterwards and asked for clarification of what I was saying. He was, he said, the Managing Partner of a legal practice with 15 partners and asked what I meant by "prospecting".

"Seeking out new clients who have not previously used you", I said

"Oh", he said "how?"

"For example", I said "do you ask for referrals? - do you ask each of your satisfied clients to recommend others to whom you could sell your services?"

"That goes against the grain" he said "I'm not sure about that" and walked away.

That Managing Partner is running a business - just like any other business - and whereas we may have had the luxury in the past of new clients finding us THAT TIME HAS GONE.

I believe that we must assume that the basic rules of business now apply to all businesses - we all need to seek out new customers, we need to sell to them, we need to provide unrivalled products and services and we need to treat those customers like our life depends on them - because it does!

None of this is rocket science or new, none of it is things we should have been doing anyway, but I do believe it's going to be those businesses that really get their act together that I come through these times really humming.

There is a risk - a big risk - that the rest will fall by the wayside and I see no reason to mourn them.

In addition to the business sectors that are growing there are national markets also to consider. For example the OECD says that Brazil will likely avoid recession completely in 2009. Petrobras - its state oil company has a four-year $174bn expansion plan, whilst Embraer remains one of the largest passenger jet makers in the world. Brazil is seen to have outperformed India and China and has a well regulated banking system that is not exposed to sub prime. Go and sell to them.

There are other nations who are continuing to grow and invest - but maybe not as fast as heretofore - but nevertheless at rates of growth that are the envy of most other nations. Go and sell to them.

If we are running a business or involved in running a business I believe it is our responsibility to develop and implement a growth strategy to ensure that our business and our employees thrive through these times.

That's our job - now more than ever.

©2009 Roger Harrop Associates

About Me

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Roger Harrop, The CEO Expert, has spent over 25 years leading international business at the highest level, ultimately a plc, putting him in a unique position to deal with contemporary business challenges. He is ranked in the top 10 of Management and Strategy Speakers worldwide by Speaker Wiki and twice voted by the members of The Academy for Chief Executives 'Speaker of the Year' He is an, Oxford, UK based, international motivational business growth speaker who inspires and entertains his audiences with his acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter® programmess. Over 20000 CEOs, business leaders in 40 countries have achieved transformational change through his thought provoking and entertaining talks laced with real-life stories, anecdotes and humour. Roger is an author, accredited SME business advisor, mentor, and independent director and has run businesses for major multi-national corporations. He is a Past-President of The Professional Speakers Association, a former Vice-President of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and a Liveryman with The Worshipful Company of Marketers.