You don't always have to drive in the passing lane, but if you're moving slowly, you will be lapped. That's why lifelong learning (continuing education) is critical. Staying competitive in today's economic climate requires new ideas, identifying or creating new trends, and building new relationships.
Take entrepreneurship classes. They're available at most universities and colleges. For example, the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence helps business leaders develop strategic plans, network with peers, and grow their companies. The concepts keep you fresh and moving in the right direction. As the saying goes, if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
Join business and industry roundtable groups. It's good to be surrounded by business people who understand the challenges you face daily. They're a good sounding board and can provide ideas on how to market your company. Vistage International is one such group. With more than 14,000 members, Vistage gives you access to new ideas and fresh thinking through peer workshops, one-on-one coaching, speaker presentations from experts, social networking, and online resources.
Invest in a business advisor or coach or mentor. If you're committed to lifelong learning, it's vital to have a trusted, competent advisor to help you crystalize ideas and maintain focus. It's the same concept as hiring a fitness trainer to stay in physical shape.
When times are uncertain, communication with your target audiences is more important than ever.
Keep employees informed of key business decisions. They know "what time of day" it is, so making sure they're in the communication loop will keep them focused on delivering superior quality service.
Ask for employees' input on saving the company money; they'll have good ideas. Allowing them to participate in the decision-making sends a strong message: "We're all in this together."
Communicate with your banker, accountant, and vendors. The worst thing is to surprise your lender. Keep them informed of your financial planning, including what you foresee down the road. Your accountant also should be involved in budgeting. Remember, your accountant can be a big help in conversations with the bank. Be up front with vendors, work with them on reasonable payment terms, and keep your word in making payments.