This article reprinted from the Debra Condren Weblog. The original article can be found online:
© 2009, Debra Condren
Economists say the Great Recession -- the longest and deepest since World War II -- ended 18 months ago and that the U.S. economy is, in fact, growing again. But growth is relative. Even the rosiest economic forecasts for 2011 come in well under 3 percent growth. Unemployment is still high, and consumer spending is still sluggish.
That doesn't mean sit and wait for things to improve. Rather, retool for the economy that exists today, and will be lingering for many tomorrows. Here are 10 places to start.
1. Overhaul your business plan. Rethinking your business plan can help you spot new opportunities and point your company in the right direction. For step-by-step advice, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration's guide.
2. Double down on what works. Whatever paid off in 2010 is worth investing more time, money and resources next year. Ask yourself: What was your top-selling product or service, and how can you get your customers to buy more? What money-saving strategies went straight to the bottom line? What incentives or promotions got your customers' attention?
3. Experiment. The best time to try something new? When the old isn't working. It may feel safer to stay in your comfort zone, but sticking with the same old product, service or marketing strategy might actually be riskier.
4. Fire your D-grade customers. Make a list of your customers and give each of them a grade. Then dump everyone below a C--or a B, if you can afford it. Once you've separated the winners from the losers, put a plan in place to turn those laggards into A-listers. Going forward, use those criteria to size up new business.
5. Become an 'A' customer. When prices are low, as they are now, it's generally a good time to lock in long-term contracts with your regular vendors, contractors and suppliers. Indeed, you might be able to negotiate a lower price in return for the promise of your business.
6. Expand your network. Facebook and LinkedIn have their uses, but they'll never replace face-to-face meetings, especially to win new business and get referrals.
7. Leverage your brand. "What do you bring to the table that no one else is serving up to clients and potential clients?"asks Debra Condren, a New York business psychologist. "You must first understand what sets you apart and then become completely fluent in communicating to your target audience what separates you from the herd."
8. Get some credit. The mortgage market is starting to thaw, and that's good news for small-business owners who can tap their home equity for working capital. If you have good credit and some equity in your house, now may be the time to refinance before interest rates rise.
9. Fire up your employees. Think about creating a bonus plan to motivate employees to hit your 2011 goals.
10. Team up. Working with "channel partners" -- companies that target the same market but with products or services different from yours--can be an ultra-efficient marketing strategy.
This posting was originally written by Rosalind Resnick as featured in The Street.