Practical ideas for weathering a stormy economy

”In a storm, people can either be victims, or they can take positive steps to rescue themselves. The idea of mastering your destiny instead of letting circumstances master you is not a platitude or a bumper sticker. It is very real, and many of the most successful entrepreneurs discovered this reality at a time when they were at their lowest ebb.”

These are the words of business turn-around expert, author, and former manufacturing company operator Suzanne Caplan. In these trying economic times, she offers seven tips to weathering a stormy recession.

If doing nothing because you think the situation can’t get any worse, be assured that it will. Now is the time for action. Action is always preferable to inaction because inaction spawns a pattern of victimization and pins us down into a habit of only reacting to the bad instead of planning for the better.

The unknown is likely to be less threatening than you expect. This is particularly true about creditors. They have far less power than you may think. Tune out the noise until you are ready to work on a plan. Decisions made out of fear and anxiety are almost always the wrong ones, so take a breath and a blank piece of paper and list your liabilities and your assets and take stock of everything you can do to get the two lists to cancel each other out.

Being proactive is far better than being reactive. Once you know what you need to do with regard to any of your challenges, you should be the one to take the first action. Make it bold and with confidence. The more you play on your side of the field, the better off you are. Offense is easier to play than defense in this situation because you get to set the pace.

If you are working in an industry at risk or for a company that seems vulnerable, now may be the time to move out on your own. Great fortunes are started in down times. Remember that most everyone shares one common trait with every successful entrepreneur – at one point or another, they’ve all worked for someone else too.

Think about taking over an existing business. There are owners who will finance the cost, particularly if they are close to retirement. Assets are very cheap at this point. Many business owners own more than one, and sometimes they are willing to sell off a profit-generating business to cover the losses of another. Take advantage of that condition to find an opportunity that matches your education, background and talents.

The more diverse your clientele, the less likely you will be without sufficient income. Remember to market for growth. Don’t simply cater to your existing customer base, but rather, open your business aperture to include non-traditional potential clients. Those customers represent growth and prosperity. Do not put all your eggs in one basket.

If you are living in or driving an asset that is overleveraged (you owe more than it is worth), give serious thought to getting out from under it. Like many large concerns, it is better to take a one-time hit to dump an upside-down asset than it is to continuing to allow it to pull revenue away from you a little at a time.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So for the sake of clarity, please try to include photos with your Practical Ideas submissions, not hand-drawn sketches. Email submissions to chuck.bates@penton.com.

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