One area Hansen discusses is a business model she developed called Stages of Growth for companies from startup to five to 10 years of operation and with less than 100 employees, and the principles are universal, she said.
Even though times may be slow, business owners can take steps that will help make the future brighter, like using slow times for planning, Hansen said.
“This economy is a really good time for entrepreneurs to take a step back and prepare for the next level,” she said. “They’re not going to be taking hits like this forever.”
For example, she said, business owners might look at what they can do for their next level of expansion.
“Most people don’t take time to plan, the sales come in the door and they just react instead of looking at what they could do smarter,” she said. “I’ve asked business why they don’t offer a particular service, and they usually say, ‘I don’t know why.’”
That’s the problem with getting caught up in the daily operations or just worrying about the future, she said.
“Business owners get wrapped up in their own stuff and don’t think about business,” she said.
Hansen acts as a coach to business owners and helps them with formulate a growth model with eight or 10 initiatives to achieve which are plotted on a business growth curve.
“You can calculate where a business is on the growth curve, but they need to get ahead of it,” she said.
Business owners have to “think outside the box” in hard times, Hansen said, and they need to be flexible to adjust changing markets.
“You might be better off having someone come in a do sales part time so you can think about your business and plan, like what customers are asking for that you’re not responding to,” she said. “We get so overwhelmed to stay afloat and don’t take time to think.”
Slow times are also good for thinking about ways to get ahead of the competition once sales do pick up, she said.
“It’s most valuable to position yourself in a new way that can make you smarter than your competition,” she said. “But if you don’t think about it or brainstorm, you won’t do it.”
Sue Hansen’s web site is www.suehansenspeaks.com and she can be reached at 252-0800 for more details on her experience as a national speaker, trainer and consultant.
As the economy picks up and businesses start to grow, Hansen said it’s important that employers don’t expand too fast, because they could be in trouble again.
“When you first start, you do everything: janitorial, marketing, sales, accounting, and as the business grows, you would start adding employees,” she said. “But when you get to 10 employees, you start having different problems than when it was just you.”
That’s the tipping point that brings in a need for human resources professionals, she said.
“What happens when you add people is that you add complexity and problems are multiple,” she said. “You still have to sell but are becoming more of a manager and a lot of companies don’t make that transition from entrepreneur to manager. With 30 employees, you can’t do it yourself.”
Things will get better she said, and when looking toward growth, companies need to think seriously about where their profits are coming from. A good way is by looking at customer complaints and studying areas that are weaker than others.
“If a part of your business is suffering, maybe you’re not tracking customer requests,” she said. “And if you don’t train in customer service or product knowledge, sales are going out the door.”