Is it Time to Use a Bigger Hammer?
edited: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Beth Fowler
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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As we head into the new year, small business owners might be thinking of investing, hiring, advertising.
They’re wondering, is this the right time?
“Let’s wait until after the holidays,” cautious business owners said last fall, before making investments or major changes.
“Let’s wait until after the election,” they said.
“Let’s wait until the economy turns the corner,” they’re saying now.
“If you wait it out with no strategy, you could miss out on future opportunities,” Says Jerry Glenn, past president and CEO of Armstrong Flooring. Glenn was a District Director with SCORE Lancaster in Pennsylvania. He’s survived roller coaster business cycles. He knows it will take time for the economy to improve, yet he says, “You can profit even in a recession.”
And right about now, you’re thinking: Yeah, but! My business is completely different from manufacturing flooring.
Jerry Glenn never ran a hotel or a construction company or a dog kennel, or a house cleaning service…or whatever kind of enterprise you’re operating.
So what are the options? As a small business owner myself, I’ve learned that if I go to a nail-hammering expert with my serious business question, I’ll be told I need to buy a bigger hammer (with a laser accuracy device and suede-covered handle!), even though it hasn’t been established that nails needing a-hammering is the root problem. If I ask friends and family for help, they’ll give advise that’s filtered through a lens of love (nice, but not always what I need to run a successful business).
Running a small business isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise. Hiring more people might be right for Joe’s operation, but will be disastrous for Janet’s shop. To compound these tough times, unscrupulous opportunists prey on business owners who are looking for ways to maintain a decent income stream. (How many spam emails have you received about free money?) So, we’re even more cautious.
It’s natural for business owners to have blinds spots, personal weaknesses and to avoid aspects of running our businesses that we simply don’t enjoy. These areas might be where golden solutions are waiting to be mined.
Generally, challenging times are when business owners, according to Glenn, “can step back to:
Focus your mind.
Redefine your plan.
Seek out opportunities.
Dedicate yourself to client retention.
Surround yourself with supporters.”
SCORE is one go-to resource for supporters, or mentors, available to help business owners. Here’s how the free mentoring program works.
Call your local SCORE office and ask for a mentor. SCORE volunteer mentors are professionals with time-tested knowledge and expertise in many specialty areas.
You’ll be matched with one or more volunteer business mentors who have knowledge and experience about your question. The team members might change as your problem and its solution evolve.
Typically, mentor-business owner relationships are on-going and in-depth. Business owners and their mentors roll up their sleeves and dig deep into the books, into the process, into business systems, into ways to bid on government jobs, into how to add a new service, into selling the business if that makes sense, whatever it takes.
Laura, who launched her small biz in ’06 says, "I wholeheartedly recommend SCORE. The business experience and knowledge my mentors shared helped guide me through unfamiliar territory and set up a path forward to meet my goals. What I learned from SCORE continues to help me make it through the recession. I'm ahead in revenue now. I'll be back in touch with my mentor to brainstorm ideas and look ahead to the next six months and how to stay profitable."
Business owners can find mentors as well from Chambers of Commerce, professional and trade groups and their business networks.
If a business owner and mentors reach the conclusion that, Yep, what we need is a bigger hammer, then so be it.
Better to implement a solution based on the facts than to act (or worse yet not act) based on fear or to satisfy someone else’s agenda.