Strategies for Reinventing Your Company in Hard Times

Everyone I talk to is looking for strategies to maximize business in tough times.  Yesterday, we talked with a colleague who works for a company headquartered in Japan.  She told us that one of their senior officers came to visit the US division and told everyone to look at the lull in the business as an opportunity to redefine their business strategies and to take time to improve how they perform their work.  Through thoughtful review of current approaches (what works well and what needs to be improved) and looking for opportunities that come during difficult times, adversity provides the time to devise the most creative strategies.  What a positive perspective!

Another colleague told us that the most important thing to do is focus on what you do well and capitalize on it.  Identify your core sales channel and devote all your effort to building your business there.  Identify potential customers who are within that channel and shake the proverbial tree until you achieve success.  While this strategy is a bit more scary, it certainly makes sense, since what you do well is generally something that you know very well, probably can be done pretty cost effectively, since you do it so often, and something that you can do without adding additional resources in most cases.

The third strategy I think is important is to get rid of the customers who require a lot of support and care, but who provide you with little revenue.  If they aren’t profitable, then you are better off without them.  Focus the resources you just freed up to work on expanding your business with the customers or potential customers you know are profitable and who see you as a partner, not a vendor.   If it costs you money every year to negotiate contracts with the client, and you are continually reducing pricing and providing more service for less revenue, you might want to take a close look at that customer to see if they really provide you with a return on investment.

The last strategy I think is important is to continually expand the relationships you have within your customer base to be sure that you have multiple points of contact within the organization in case the customer’s business changes quickly.  If you only know one or two people and these people are at a fairly low level or at the extreme, at the top of the organization, when times are difficult, you know who goes first.  Make it a practice to know people at all levels of the organization so that when change comes, the new broom doesn’t sweep you out the door.

While none of these ideas are particularly innovative, except perhaps the one from our friend in Japan, adversity is the mother of invention.  I am taking time to think of ways to apply these ideas to make some lemonade.


International Hiring Processes

I just returned from a trip to Europe where during our mealtimes we ate with people from a variety of countries.  Of course, as always occurs, people ask “what do you do?”.  When I told them that our business was providing psychological testing to help companies hire, manage and develop high performers , the discussion turned to how the selection process differs from one country to the next.

Our French Canadians were quick to point out that the process has to be completed in French and that documentation needed to be placed in the personnel files in French.  Apparently psychological assessment has been used for quite some time in Canada and is not viewed as particularly earth shattering. Both of the individuals were government employees who resided in Quebec. 

Apparently, and this is certainly not documented from my own research, the problem in Canada is that while there is some rigor/regulation required during the hiring process, more significant issues are related to dismissal procedures, mostly related to the fact that a very liberal definition has been attached to stress leave.  Once an employee goes out on stress leave, the company is quite limited in its ability to dismiss the employee or to replace the position.

Our Spanish dinner partners discussed the issues around gathering personal information and avoiding the use of any tools that would disclose personal information about someone.   They were appalled that someone would suggest inserting a psychological profile within the selection process, since this seemed to violate personal space.

And our German dinner partners didn’t seem to be too concerned about hiring processes.  This could either have been because they didn’t know much about hiring people or because the system in Germany again is different from other locations.  They seemed to think that being able to gather personality traits and personal styles information would greatly enhance the ability to place the right person in the right job.  They were not, however, familiar with the use of testing in the selection process and wondered if we provided our tool in German.  We don’t as yet.

As the world gets smaller and we find ourselves in business interactions with companies in countries around the world, all of us will need to upgrade our knowledge in this area, particularly if we expect to remain competitive.  It never gets more simple, does it?