South Africans we’re in recession, technically, for the first time in eight years!
Why? Q1 2017 contracted 0.7%, negative growth for two quarters, trade, catering and accommodation contracted 5.9% with manufacturing, SYSPRO’s target, down 3.7% – the World Bank reduced SA growth for 2017 to 0.6%.
So how do you feel?
Stay positive or your organization and you will suffer. It's time to look inward. Spare staff capacity will increase as your order book slows. It’s an opportunity to up relationship activities, preserve existing business, while trimming costs and looking for efficiencies. Slack order books may leave skilled capacity you don't want to lose or you’ll suffer when the economy recovers.
Use them and grow them but don’t shelve loyal staff. Try different business models and combine a balance of back-to-basics and innovation. Use systems and creative thinking to help.
Sharpen the Saw – Employees
Loyal employees deserve our loyalty when the recession is over. Retain your best, honing skills that matter. Use capacity to expose them to new value-adding activities – suggesting and rethinking existing processes, visiting customers and suppliers to get to know what makes them tick, including what they like and don't like about your company.
This shows you’re interested in supply-chain partners who will expose opportunities to improve. Alternatively, tweak your systems to really work for you and your supply chain. Finally don't cost-cut a culture that works – trim the fat but not all the fun.
Relationships and Customer Retention
Still think customer – increase communication or our competitors will fill the gap. Find new ways to wow customers, account manage them; discover giving more of what they want for the same revenue. It’s tough for them too so improving the value-equation with helpful service preserves our revenue and could lead to customer profitability growth long-term. That's the kind of win/win we need when ordinary people talk tough times.
Find reference customers, ask what's important and how competitors deal with them, compare us vs. competitors and gain the upper hand, enable insights into easy improvements and enjoy a closer, stronger business relationship.
Oh – also analyze customers and outplace or recalibrate the non-profitable ones.
Market/Build Your Brand
Social media, social media! Train staff to spread your story, brand, personality, and value proposition. Think 3Rs to grow your brand:
- Relevance: use influencers to talk or show what you do – in blogs, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or LinkedIn, how and where they use you, what it feels like to be an advocacy customer. Push your network or better media personalities in your markets, whose public values and personality align with your brand and culture, to be active about you.
- Reach: find or create influencers with multitudes of followers on social sites, not just the number but also the type/market they appeal to and fits your business.
- Resonance: you need influencers with highly engaged followers. Their content can include haunting, creative or friendly photos of your company in use in different, familiar or aspirational places and situations.
Innovate – Make a Difference
Create services that are challenging for your customers, but easier for you to deliver. You may be smaller, nimbler, so you use this advantage over the big guys. You may be changing direction, focus, becoming more approachable, and easier to deal with – a friend or colleague who becomes a trusted advisor or just an accessible contact when it matters, will make the difference. That’s you and me!
In addition, sort out some basics that are left behind – reverse innovation. Push your ERP advantage. Clean data, archive the old stuff, check customer details are correct, find and remove left-over remnants of old work orders that confuse requirements planning. Check your system admin procedures are up to date and get to the latest version – warts and all.
Move customers to mobile access, e-commerce, and provision of relevant business insight. Think Omni-channel – implement more ways to take and deliver orders from the same, or better, new customer segments. Help customers test and perfect this before the rush of growth returns.
Enjoy the recession and come out smiling people.