This is a reprint of an article Arthur Zards, President and Co-Founder of XNet, wrote for the April 9th, 2009 edition of The Business Ledger, a newspaper focused on leading Chicagoland businesses.
This is not an article on the obvious things your business can do to survive an economic downturn. Cutting down your office supply expenses, not printing as much paper, and getting rid of the free coffee are all things that will help, but lets be honest, these aren’t magic bullets that will keep your business in the black. And as a small to medium sized business, don’t expect a government bailout either!
Thriving, not just surviving
Instead of all the obvious money savers, I would like to share a great tip on not just making it though a downturn, but something that can help you completely turn your business around.
One of the challenges of running your own business is that, well, it’s your own business. You’re in control, you make the rules, and no-one knows it better then you. And that can be a problem. It’s easy to gain tunnel vision on what you think works and doesn’t work. You’re wearing blinders right now and don’t even know it.
What if you could have an extra set of eyes and ears looking at your business from an outsider’s perspective, offering feedback and fresh ideas on what you are doing? Telling you from their perspective what appears to be working and what isn’t. Asking you probing questions that you would never think to ask yourself. It’s easier then you think.
The “Unofficial Board of Directors”
What you want to do is create an “Unofficial Board of Directors.” In short, you create a small handful of trusted, experienced advisers to view your business at a board of directors level. You meet with them once a quarter, you share with them everything, and they offer you feedback and direction.
Share everything? Yes.
It’s not an easy thing for a business owner to share a full disclosure of your business, your profit/loss, even your own compensation information. But you will be surprised at the value of having different seasoned sets of eyes and ears giving you valuable feedback. I personally know businesses that have turned around 180 degrees after starting this practice and this process helped XNet weather some tough times during the Internet bust.
Your board can be anyone, a parent, a friend, an old teacher, or a retired executive. The key is you must trust them, and you must feel that they bring a level of experience that you need. What seems to work very successfully is retired executives.
Organizations like SCORE offer easy access to thousands of retired executives who bring decades of business experience and are all aching to get back in the game. Your unofficial board will sometimes point out things to you that you don’t like, nor do you want to hear.
That’s the best part. These tough issues are the issues the very issues you must hear and become aware of. The things you choose to ignore while running your ship are often the key items you need to handle to keep your business afloat, or to get to the next level.
A Century of Experience
Still not convinced this will help?
Just three retired seasoned executives can add over a century of business experience Or imagine that all your competitors each have their own unofficial board of directors offering all their years of business experience and knowledge, and you don’t.
So instead of canceling this year’s Christmas party to save some money, get your own unofficial board of directors. After all, it works for free, doles out invaluable advice, and leaves you in full control of your business.
If you don’t know of any retired executives or trusted partners in your community check out the website for SCORE . At the very least try using their online mentor search to see the talent pool that you can access. You’ll be impressed.
Posted in Disaster Recovery
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