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Building a Business Plan for the Good Times and the Bad

The following guest post was contributed by Tag Business Coaching, a St. Louis-based executive business coaching service.

business planThe U.S. economy is very strong these days, and as a small business owner, you’re probably enjoying the ride. But, what are your plans for keeping up business when the engine invariably stalls? If your answer is, “I’ll bury my head in the sand and wait it out,” that’s not going to cut it. It’s important to prepare now by strengthening your marketing engine and focusing on employee engagement and company culture so that you can find and retain good employees for the long haul.

The Sun Is Shining…For Now.

You’re likely seeing improved month-over-month revenue, and your sales pipeline forecasts are looking as positive as your bottom line. The biggest challenge in this improved economy, however, is finding and retaining good workers. Why? Because unemployment numbers are historically low and there just aren’t that many job hunters as there used to be. (November’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, as was October’s). The unemployment rate hasn’t been this low since February 2000.   If you have great employees, it’s important to focus on retaining them. Look for ways to “lock in” your stars with tools such as deferred compensation, benefits, and phantom stock.

Consumer confidence is higher than it’s been since about 2004. This uptick in spending has led to a significant expansion in the economy, which, in turn, creates higher wages and more disposable income, leading to greater economic growth. Right now, small businesses are having some really good times.

But, Winter is Coming.

The trouble with the economic cycle is that… well, it’s cyclical. No matter how high the tide rises, it always retreats. So it is with the economy. And, the most challenging part of the business game is predicting exactly when the tide will turn.

We’re no longer experiencing the gangbusters growth pace of the past two years. Many economic experts are predicting a flattening in 2018, followed by a slight recession in 2019. The New York Post even points to signs that we could be headed for another housing collapse. While there is good news, such as the rise in GDP, this also has significant disadvantages such as an increased risk of deflation US GDP Rise Deflationary Risk.

This swing of the pendulum will negatively affect the business growth that we are currently experiencing. The situation likely won’t be nearly as disastrous as the economic collapse of a decade ago, but the dominoes will start to fall. Fewer jobs mean lower wages, which means slower consumer spending and weaker businesses.

What You Should Do Now

The most important step you can take to ensure that your business will weather the impending storm is to build awareness of your brand with a solid marketing plan. Becoming a familiar name to your prospects will give you a significant head start over your competition. Companies that survive the slump will be the ones that have the most significant client base to draw on. When the pie inevitably gets smaller, you need to ensure that your slice is the biggest.

It takes a long time to ramp up a good marketing program. You certainly can’t do it in 30 days and expect any results. Unfortunately, when times are good, far too many small business owners fall into the same trap. Right now they’re flush with cash, so any additional marketing feels like a waste of resources. In many cases, their existing staff can’t manage any extra business that a marketing program might attract. This short-sighted strategy blindsides them when the market shifts and their opportunities dry up.

Any smart businessperson will place high value on strategic planning that includes an increased investment in marketing. However, as we’ve discussed, it’s not always easy to put into practice, especially for small business owners who already feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that is required to simply run the company. But, if you want to start building brand awareness, you need to act now, not some time down the road. Remember, winter is coming.