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Preparing for the Inevitable: Tactics for Surviving Business Slowdowns

(November 2007) posted on Wed Nov 07, 2007

Business occasionally tapers off, but with right strategy you can keep your company healthy during economic slumps. The following discussion explains how you can anticipate downturns and what you can do to keep the work coming.

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By Mike Ukena

A textile printer that specializes in preprint merchandise may actually be the first to see the start and potential severity of a business-cycle slowdown. Their customers are retailers, and they tend to take the first hit in any slowdown. Lookat how closely the media and stock market tack the numbers in retail sales. It’s a great indicator.

Screen printers who create subassemblies or decorate products for other businesses will also see the slowdown early as their order sizes will drop quickly. I spoke with one printer recently who produces appliance front panels. He mentioned that he has seen a drop in order size and a flurry of new products—in small numbers. It sounds like his customer is not only experiencing a slowdown, but is also preparing for tough times by being more innovative to protect market share.

Regardless of which business type you operate, you will have access to early indicators. They key is seeing them for what they are and taking the proper steps to ensure that you are not hanging out too far to recover.


Slowdown confirmed. Now what?

If you’ve been watching and preparing, the big downturn should not come as a surprise—nor should it cause you undue concern. Survival and conservative business philosophy is now the order of the day. I will caution you to avoid one of the major pitfalls of this situation. Many companies and managers have a tendency to put their heads in the sand when things are tough. This approach is only asking for trouble.

Good ideas, new products, and quality employee prospects don’t just come your way in a boom. In fact, you’re much more likely to see more of all these things during a slowdown. Remember that your vendors, competitors, and customers are all trying to survive, so they are more likely to be innovative. Many of the great ideas in industry happen during a crunch. During boom times, everyone is just trying to get the work out. When work is slow, there is time to think.


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