After watching sales decrease year after year, this year I'll try something new. If this sounds like your company then read on. There was a time when you built your business over a number of years, then just waited for your repeat business. Repeat business is no more a given. Times are tougher, competition is tougher and there are more players selling the same stuff.
It really doesn't matter what business you're in. I'll describe my business and how it has evolved. I started off as a forms distributor when every company started using computers with their own customized forms. The large companies were too busy to go after the medium and small clients, or would only do so if the margins were very high. This left a void in the market that many people capitalized on. Repeat business was almost guaranteed as these people feared that their rotary (pin fed) forms would not work if someone else produced them. With the computer revolution came the knowledge and acceptance of the ease with dealing with computers and their by products.
Today, less and less people are using pin fed forms and have shifted to laser forms. A good percentage of people print the whole form directly from their inexpensive laser printer. To survive and prosper I learned early on that you needed to diversify both in product and customer base. I started selling commercial printing, offered an e-commerce ordering system before it became fashionable, started selling promotional products and really became knowledgeable in the products I sell and in the products that will be available in the short term. Today forms account for only 20% of my business. Today my business grows annualy at a 50% growth rate. Should I be satisfied. No way. In the next 5 years I'll bet the bulk of my business will be in something else.
If I rested on my laurels and waited for the money to roll in, I would just be waiting for the inevitable train wreck. What's working today will not be working in 5 years, maybe even 3 years. Those that do not embrace change better start looking for their next job or business opportunity. It's time to be proactive. Look at new markets, look at new products and look at new ways to increase your business. The internet is not going away, it will only keep growing. Buyers that were slow to embrace internet shopping have become the the nets best customers. The growth is exponential. Run, don't walk to get a web site and one that will help you sell more product and to a wider market. Try new things like COLD CALLING! Forget your fears, the worst thing they can say is no. Better to have a chance for new business than none at all. Hire long term good people. Those that are short sighted will have their business results reflected by it. Stop bitching and whining and spend that energy usefully. There are doers and complainers. Make 2006 the year you particpted in the doer group. The earlier you start the earlier you'll be on a path for success.
My last bit of advice is never become complacent. Walmart never rested on its laurels. In the last 5 years we've seen them open Sam's Club to compete with Costco, start selling groceries to compete with the grocery stores and start buying direct from China all in an effort to increase sales and profits. My bet is that in the next 5 years we'll see them in even more businesses. The world has changed and there's no turning back.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Schneidman has a B. A.in Pychology and an MBA. He has taught at a major Canadian University and has worked for the head office of one of the largest Canadian Banks. Today he runs a very successful printing and promotional product company, Solutions Ink .