The Most Difficult Time of the Year

Andy Williams would have us believe that the Christmas season is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Small business owners are reading quite the opposite—that holiday shopping is stacking up to be just shy of dismal, maybe the weakest in years.

Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook forecast for 2016 has unemployment falling below 5% to 4.5% and inflation rising to 2.3% from 1.1% in 2015. They predict crude oil trading in the $40 range and retail sales up only 0.2%. The bright news was sales of single-family homes rising 20%. Good news if you’re in the building business. Read the whole report.

Small businesses can survive 2016 by adapting quickly to market shifts. We recommend keeping aware of your competition to see who struggles in these shifting market conditions and position your business to take up any slack. It’s also smart to maintain your cash flow during weak months and avoid borrowing. Plan to increase efficiency and become a leaner, more efficient operation, ready to move quickly when markets improve.

Our survival tips include:

  • Manage inventories carefully but don’t lose sales because of it.
  • Monitor cash flow and income vs. expenses constantly.
  • Discipline expense spending and eliminate unnecessary expenses.
  • Don’t let collections get out of control.
  • Consider delaying capital expenditures so you have money to expand quickly when the economy picks up.
  • Aggressively seek out new business and forge new relationships.
  • Increase or at least maintain advertising in order to outsell those whose cut back.
  • Provide excellent customer service, and stress value with customers.
  • Motivate employees to participate in lean times tactics and create employee incentives for good ideas.

Practice these key suggestions and you may find 2016 a remarkable personal achievement.

Reflecting on Veterans Day

Last year the National Review published a poignant refection on one man’s service in the military. He talked about how fewer Americans now serve. As I read it, I thought how rare it is now to hear a WWII veteran share their stories. Few are left. I wondered how what our modern warriors learn from their service, and if it can influence how we regular citizens go about our daily lives and run our businesses.

Pride or Purpose. The author spoke of his pride or purpose of serving his county…the fear of sitting behind the door gunner of a Chinook helicopter on his first night in Iraq. And how that pride is often lost when the mission ends and the vet comes home.

Humility. He spoke of the courage needed to lay their lives on the line if necessary. Just ordinary people, like you and me, but they experienced an extraordinary response that was humbling nonetheless.

Sadness. Some of his friends didn’t come home. The memories of those friends drum up memories on which hope for the future is to be built.

Because I’m a business person, I read the article through the lens of my own world—the world of numbers, finances, and clients. It was a humbling experience for me. I thought you might also find nuggets for reflection on this Veterans Day 2015.

Here’s the article.