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Keeping Your Business Healthy in a Down Economy

(May 2009) posted on Wed May 20, 2009

If the economic downturn has left you with extra time on your hands, why not use it to look for ways to strengthen your company? Follow the ten guidelines presented here to find new business opportunities and keep your company profitable.

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By Mike Ukena

Listening to suppliers is a good way to learn about future trends, what is going on in the market, and even what the competition is doing. When a vendor comes to call, don’t look at it as a nuisance, look at it as an opportunity to gain valuable information. If vendors usually just talk to purchasing personnel, make sure that they see whoever is in charge of research and development also. When a vendor rep gets the right piece of information, it could mean a breakthrough on a product or process for your business.

It isn’t often that we get a chance to listen to competitors, but the opportunities do arise from time to time. When they do, make sure that you don’t miss them. Mixers sponsored by your local chamber of commerce, trade shows, and participation in industry trade organizations all present good opportunities to speak with and listen to the competition. Sometimes, just picking up the phone and calling a competitor can be a worthwhile exercise that turns up valuable information for both companies.

For example, you’ve probably faced the problem of the customer who uses the competitor’s pricing as leverage to get better pricing from you. Sometimes the pricing numbers they throw at you just don’t make sense. That’s when it is time to call the competitor and clear the air. Such communication can often turn into a positive situation for both companies, especially when it reveals customers who are trying to play both sides.


Remember your best asset—your staff

This principle should be an easy one to master for every business owner, but un-fortunately it is not. You can determine very easily whether you are paying enough attention to your staff and their welfare—just look at your turnover rate. If you have a high turnover rate, then there is a problem that needs addressing. If you have a happy staff with low turn-over, then you already realize the benefits.

Stable work forces pay big dividends. They lead to lower training costs, lower worker compensation rates, lower insurance costs, and higher productivity levels. High turnover rates guarantee high costs, especially when you try to make up for the turnover by paying low wages. Substandard pay rates are a fact of life in our industry, but they are one of the major contributors to the turn-over rates in our workforce. For companies that use low wages as a means to save money, these savings are quickly lost through increased training costs, lower productivity levels, and higher insurance costs.

Several business journals publish annual lists of the best companies to work for. If you study these lists, you will see that most of the companies lead their respective industries in productivity and profit. Treating employees well can have just as great an impact on your own company.


Don’t be a statistic

During these tough economic times, take the opportunity to improve your business practices. It is much easier to work on the points discussed in this article when things are slow than to try and institute major changes when things get busy. Put these principles into practice now and they will be second nature to you and your staff when the orders start flowing freely again. 


Mike Ukena is a 22-year screen-printing veteran who has owned a textile-printing company and worked in technical services for the SGIA as the director of education. A member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology, Ukena is a frequent speaker on technical and management topics at industry events. He is currently a technical-sales representative for Union Ink Co., Inc.

Editor’s note: This article was updated from a previous piece that appeared in the August 2002 edition of Screen Printing.



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