A Twister Safe sign for a small family business that specializes in constructing safe rooms stands June 17, 2011 in Neosho, Missouri. A surge of interest in safe rooms has been seen since an F5 tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri in May. (Photo by Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

Each day the national news media bombards us with more gloom and doom about our economy. Is it any wonder that the “main street” business owner is under tremendous stress? Do I lay off people or keep them and bite the bullet? Do I reduce prices? Do I reduce hours? Do I reduce inventory? Do I move to a cheaper space? The self-created mountains are endless.

Is it any wonder that each morning when you put the key in the lock to open the store you wonder if today will be the last day you are able to do that? It’s no secret that we are in tough economic times but we do have some control over our own self-fulfilling prophecies. In fact, studies show that as much as 50% of the things we worry about never actually happen. It’s time to stop thinking emotionally and start thinking logically.

People need you

No matter what your product or service, each and every day, someone needs what you sell or do. Sometimes they know they need your product, sometimes they don’t. How many people needed the Hula Hoop the day before it came out? Business owners often take for granted that customers know all the products and services offered.

What are your most profitable products or services? Make sure your advertising clearly states how those products, or services, benefit the customer. During tough times you need the most profitable customers you can find. Believe me; they are out there trying hard to find you.

Don’t let them “pigeonhole” your business

Customers often lump like businesses together. McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King. Pizza Hut and Dominos. If you allow them to do this then you dilute the value of your business. Notice I said, “if you allow them.”

You have the ability to distance your business from your competitors by using positioning. For example, if I asked you to name a soup company you would most likely say Campbell’s. A laundry detergent you would say Tide. Positioning shows the customer how you are different from like products in your marketing and advertising message. What do you do that’s bigger, faster, cheaper, and easier than your competition? Let customers know those differences.

Rely on the right experts

This is what I call the “Price is Right” syndrome. If you’ve ever watched the popular daytime TV show you know a contestant gets on stage and has to guess product prices to win prizes. When the question is posed by the host what does the contestant do? They turn to their friends in the audience who somehow now magically have the answers. They signal back and forth and the burden of the decision is now off the contestant and onto the audience members.

In the 1964 movie, “The Carpetbaggers,” Elizabeth Ashley asks George Peppard whom he would most like to be stranded on a desert island with. Peppard’s answer, “The world’s greatest boat builder.”

Business owners often get so desperate they will accept input from anyone. The most important take away point from this article is to get the advice of people who are qualified to give it. They must have walked a mile in your shoes before they can give you any credible advice.

Organize your day

Have a set schedule everyday. In the first hour of the morning you may not take calls because you need to organize marketing or projects for the day that will increase the bottom line. After this you can return phone calls and take care of any messages. Or for your particular business maybe phone follow up should be first. The point is that each person in the company will know when you are available and when you need personal time to take care of business. Be proactive not reactive.

Don’t let dollars derail your goals

I understand that we need money to keep the doors open. However, if you totally change the structure of your business, change all your procedures, just to make an extra buck; your loyal customers are going to be confused. If you make these changes temporary, how are your customers going to know when you change back? They will be long gone to someone who still does what you USED to do.

Don’t change the things that made you successful. Your customers are still out there looking for you. Do everything in your power to help them find you.

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