Grow Your Business Slowly In a Recession

By Jeremiah Wilson

Each year, my organization ContactPoint trains hundreds of companies to improve and optimize their on-the-phone sales and customer service performance. And each time we do it, we have to resist a temptation.

The temptation is this: Walk into a training and “dump.” Dump everything we’ve learned through our high-tech analytics and experience in the industry as quickly as possible. Share every tip, technique, secret and tool we know about sales and customer service. Replay every phone call of every customer interaction we’ve recorded in the last week, give feedback on those calls, yell a lot, and then walk out of the room.

It sounds pretty ridiculous right?

Why? Because it wouldn’t work.

The skills we teach have to be taught in a very deliberate and practical way. They have to be learned, developed, practiced and refined. Growth is a process. It does not happen overnight. If we tried to train in hyper-speed we would fail.

And even though it sounds ridiculous, many business owners and CEOs believe they can grow their business at hyper-speed. They want to boil the ocean. They want more. And they want it now.

The problem with this attitude is two-fold:

  1. The current economic climate is simply not conducive to growing a business in a reckless manner; and
  2. Just like the “dump” method of training, if you do everything all at once and too quickly. You will fail.

Expanding Too Quickly

A leading cause of business failure as the economy crested and then fell in 2007 and 2008 was growing too fast. To borrow and grossly modify a quote from Jurassic Park: “Business owners get so preoccupied with whether or not they can expand, they don’t stop to think about if they should expand.” Businesses borrowed too much money, had too little capital, and simply expanded too quickly. The businesses that did that prior to the recession are now, mostly, gone.

Remember: Just like everyone who was eaten by dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, you will always pay the price for moving too fast.

The ‘Optimistic’ Way to Grow

Measurable — You must have a very specific, very planned strategy. And you must be able to define success. If your goal is simply to “grow” or “get bigger,” you will fail. Why? Because those are not measurable goals. What specifically is your business’ goal? How will you measure that goal? And how/when will you achieve it?

Milestones — When we train we don’t teach people to do “better.” We teach people to measurably improve one step at a time. Treat your shop the same way. Give it milestones. They could be certain levels of revenue, car counts, or number of employees. Once you’ve reached a certain milestone, you’ll know what the next milestone is (remember, you already have a very specific strategy that lays all this out). You don’t just expand because you have dreams in your head, stars in your eyes and money in your pocket.

Living Within Your Means — When families create a budget they often forget to take into account “unexpected” costs — like medical expenses, retirement, car expenses, and home repairs.

This makes no sense.

These “unexpected” expenses should be expected. They happen every year. Always. Businesses are no different. Make sure you consider employees quitting, employees wanting raises, equipment breaking, or property maintenance. Plan and budget for these “unexpected” events.

Grow Slowly and Prosper

Before ContactPoint trains, we gather real data (in our situation: from actual recorded phone calls), we develop a strategy, we set milestones and we measure, measure, measure. This is a process produces optimal results. It is not an event.

This process the best way to optimally grow your business especially in a recession.

Jeremiah Wilson founded ContactPoint in 2001 with a patented device that records customer phone calls, allowing companies to hear what their customers hear. Prior to that, he specialized in logistics, customer service and sales training, and was assistant to the counselor of economics at the U.S. Embassy to the Czech Republic; he currently serves on the board of directors for various global companies.
Originally published: Nov 1, 2011

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